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Stanley is sentenced in Messersmith murder

March 26, 2002|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

Saul Joseph Stanley was sentenced Monday to life in prison, with the possibility of parole, for the murder of William Leonard Messersmith 15 months ago.

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III was required by law to sentence Stanley, 24, to life in prison. Boone was free to choose whether to make parole a possibility.

Boone said during Monday's hearing that he considered a pre-sentence report, written statements by Messersmith's family, Stanley's age and criminal record and other factors.

After the hearing, Stephen Tully, a Baltimore attorney representing Stanley, filed an appeal.

In a telephone interview later, Tully said Stanley was "disappointed about the sentence, but optimistic about the appeal."

Stanley did not speak during the hearing.

Outside the courthouse, Cindi Messersmith, William's daughter, said she had hoped for no parole. "But when you're only 24, whether it's with parole or without parole, it's still a long time," she said.

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Boone noted that parole is rare now in Maryland.

The Maryland Parole Commission holds hearings, but "the governor has steadfastly said he would not consider parole, except in extraordinary circumstances," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Of the 26 times parole has been recommended since Parris Glendening became governor in 1995, the governor granted five for medical reasons, three people died before he decided and one person was released from prison unrelated to parole, Sipes said.

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long argued in court Monday that Stanley, who's known as Jeff, should be denied parole.

"Mr. Messersmith was brutally beaten and killed," Long said.

Authorities have said Messersmith, 76, was killed at his home west of Clear Spring after a violent struggle.

Stanley and Liger Grady, both of Martinsburg, W.Va., talked Messersmith into hiring them to tar his driveway. They arrived Dec. 5, 2000, to do the work.

After Messersmith took out a bag containing about $40,000, Grady acted as a lookout while Stanley beat Messersmith, Grady testified last month.

Grady pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last August and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His sentence was cut to 10 years in exchange for his testimony in the Stanley trial.

A jury convicted Stanley of first-degree murder and six other charges on Feb. 22.

Long said the manner in which Messersmith died was one reason Stanley should get life without parole.

Tully didn't dispute the brutality. But he urged Boone to suspend all but 20 years of Stanley's life sentence under "the theory of disparate sentencing."

Of Grady's 10-year sentence, he'll probably serve five, or about one-fourth of Stanley's term under a suspended sentence, Tully said.

After the hearing, the Stanley and Messersmith families were escorted out of the courthouse separately. They had argued with each other during Stanley's trial.

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