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Whittington sentence not reduced

February 20, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Jeffrey Todd Whittington has failed to persuade a judge to shorten the 20-year prison sentence he's serving for the 1993 murder of his bride of three weeks.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell issued his ruling Thursday, saying that in this case, there is a reason for "punishment for punishment's sake."

Whittington was 19 when he was charged with strangling his 20-year-old wife, Missy Praetz, as they argued in her car while parked on Pectonville Road west of Clear Spring on Feb. 28, 1993.

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Now 23, he's been in prison for four years for second-degree murder.

"The defendant extinguished a life by his own hand. That life was precious to the victim, to Missy Praetz' family, and it should have been just as precious to him," McDowell said in his ruling.

The couple had secretly married three weeks before the slaying in a ceremony at the Washington County Courthouse.

According to a statement of facts, a woman driving home on Pectonville Road spotted Whittington that night, running toward her car, waving for help, and holding a cigarette lighter.

Whittington claimed to have been in an accident and the woman went for help, returning with her husband after calling for an ambulance.

Whittington said he was injured, but did not mention his wife was in the car until a fire was spotted inside, court records said.

The next day, Whittington confessed to strangling Praetz during an argument, driving the car into a tree off Pectonville Road and lighting the car's interior in an attempt to make it look like she died in an accident, court records said.

"I'm very sorry, very remorseful to Mr. and Mrs. Praetz," Whittington said, turning toward the victim's parents who attended the Feb. 13 sentence modification hearing.

In late October, a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore awarded $3.5 million in wrongful death damages to the parents of Missy Praetz.

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