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Killer's aunt gets year for drive

May 02, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Denise Darlene Coleman said in court Tuesday that when she drove her nephew, Michael Dwayne Williams, from Hagerstown to Baltimore a year ago, she was unaware he was fleeing a murder charge.

Coleman entered an Alford plea Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to being an accessory after the fact in the shooting death of Desmar Bernard Artis on May 19, 1999.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but agrees the state has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Although Coleman faced a possible five-year sentence, Judge Kennedy Boone complied with a plea agreement and gave her to a one-year concurrent sentence because the prosecution had evidence problems.

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Coleman was handed a five-year sentence Tuesday for an unrelated cocaine distribution charge to which she entered a guilty plea. Probation was set at three years.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said Coleman sold cocaine to a confidential informant on Dec. 13.

It was the other charge that brought Coleman to the attention of murder investigators in the Artis case.

"I send out my apologies ... I feel badly that you lost a son," Coleman said to Vivian Marshall, the Hagerstown mother of the 18-year-old victim. "I took Michael to Baltimore but I didn't find out until after that he was wanted for murder," Coleman said.

A college graduate with 16 years of military service and six years working in the Division of Correction, Coleman told Boone she has lost her home, her job and her self-respect because of drugs and hanging out with the wrong people.

She also said she completed the Jail Substance Abuse Program while in the Washington County Detention Center.

"I don't feel I need to go to the Division of Correction but whatever God's will is, I'll do," Coleman said.

Hagerstown City Police believed that unwanted attention paid to Michael Williams' sister may have led to the May 19, 1999, fatal shooting of Desmar Artis.

At 11:16 p.m. on May 19, Hagerstown City Police went to East Franklin Street for reports of shots fired, court records said.

The police officers found nothing and left the area, court records said.

More than seven hours later, officers received a report of a man on the ground in the first block of East Avenue, court records said.

They found Artis with one gunshot wound to the right shoulder.

Located in Baltimore, Williams was returned to Hagerstown for trial where he was convicted of first-degree murder and use of a handgun.

Boone sentenced him to life plus 10 years earlier this year.

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