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Man gets 20 years in '95 assault case

June 10, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Donald "Donnie'' Gatrell Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for assault with intent to murder against his brother-in-law nearly two years ago.

In handing down the sentence, Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III acknowledged the possibility for treatment and ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Gatrell, 37, at Patuxent Institution.

In January, a jury found Gatrell guilty of the July 1995 knife attack in which he proclaimed he was "a warrior for Christ."

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Penalties for convictions of assault and battery were merged into the 20-year sentence and Gatrell was ordered to serve a three-year concurrent term for carrying a concealed weapon with intent to injure.

The stabbing victim, Jerry Edward Moreland, was admitted to Washington County Hospital on July 20, 1995, for treatment of stab wounds.

Two nights earlier, Gatrell went after Moreland with a claw hammer, according to testimony. Gatrell fled and the next day his family obtained emergency psychiatric commitment papers for him.

On July 20, Moreland testified, he was outside near the outbuilding when Gatrell approached him.

Gatrell bit Moreland in the arm and stabbed him in the back twice as Moreland ran to the house for protection.

Inside, Gatrell stabbed Moreland three times in the chest and many times in the face, in view of Moreland's wife and three children.

Moreland sustained serious facial cuts, wounds to his hands and wrists, several stab wounds to the back and chest.

A lengthy land and air search ended when a "war whoop" was heard coming from a wooded area near the family farm, and police closed in on Gatrell.

Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. said Gatrell's criminal behavior went back to 1975 and included breaking and entering, assaults, weapons and drug violations.

"There is an extensive record of violent crimes," Long said. "He shouldn't be released to the community."

"He is mentally ill," Gatrell's attorney, Michael Morrissette said, asking for a commitment to Patuxent, where treatment is available.

Gatrell was given credit for 689 days spent in jail awaiting trial and sentencing.

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