Woman convicted of killing daughter must stay in prison

January 16, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

A Garrett County woman convicted of murdering her 4-year-old daughter more than 17 years ago will not get a break in her life sentence, a panel of three circuit judges has ruled.

The judges - two from Washington County and one from Allegany County - affirmed Donna Lynn White's sentence Wednesday after considering testimony and other evidence presented at a Dec. 5 sentence review hearing.

Still pending is a decision on White's request for a new trial due to mistakes her former defense attorney says he made in 1986.

White's current public defender, Thomas A. Kennedy, maintained at the December hearing that she was a victim of Bruce Allen Sarver, the boyfriend who also was convicted of murdering Brandy White and who also is serving a life term.


"It's an incredible disappointment," Kennedy said. "I just wish there was more sensitivity to the circumstances Ms. White was in."

Brandy's father, Richard White, of Bloomington, said he was "tickled" by the news. "I just can't believe that something went my way for once," he said.

At the hearing, he had presented the judges with 6,490 signatures on petitions opposing leniency for his former wife.

Donna White, 44, was sentenced in December 1986 to life in prison plus 15 years for first-degree murder and child abuse in the beating death of her daughter seven months earlier. Sarver was convicted at a separate trial of first-degree murder and child abuse.

Investigators said Brandy died after being beaten, kicked and thrown around the couple's Swanton trailer home for several days because she had hidden a wallet containing nearly $700 in money orders and food stamps.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright, who headed the three-judge panel, said at the hearing that evidence indicated Sarver delivered the fatal blows but that White, by her own admission, struck Brandy at least once in the week before she lapsed into a coma. The girl was taken to a hospital on May 18, 1986, and died 11 days later, according to court records.

White, 44, an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, testified at the hearing that her actions stemmed from drinking to ease the pain of own childhood abuse. She said psychotherapy had helped recover from alcohol dependence.

The sentence review was ordered by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley after a post-conviction hearing earlier last year on White's claim that she had an inadequate defense in 1986. Her trial lawyer, Michael Morrissette, testified he had made mistakes, including failing to present evidence that she had been abused.

The Herald-Mail Articles