Woman convicted in daughter's murder gets reduced sentence

August 28, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

A life sentence for a Garrett County woman convicted of murdering her 4-year-old daughter in 1986 was reduced to 30 years on Friday by a retired Washington County Circuit Court judge.

Retired Circuit Judge Daniel W. Moylan sentenced Donna Lynn White, 45, to life in prison, but suspended all but 30 years of that sentence, saying that White should have stepped in and prevented her daughter's beating death, but it was her then-boyfriend, Bruce Allen Sarver, who dealt the deadly blows.

Sarver, 47, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder for Brandy White's death. Donna White was taken to jail on May 20, 1986, two days after Brandy White was taken to the hospital with between 40 and 50 bruises on her body, some of which White dealt, Garrett County State's Attorney Lisa Thayer Welch said.


Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley granted White a resentencing hearing after her original trial lawyer, Michael Morrissette, admitted to not providing adequate legal services at her murder trial, his biggest case up to that point.

On Friday, Morrissette, district public defender for Washington and Frederick counties, said that White has made major steps toward recovery in her 18 years in prison and has all "the good time accredited to her for those years."

Moylan, who said he read over all the testimony from the trials related to Brandy White's murder, said he was most struck by evidence that Brandy's brother, Delbert, was playing checkers outside with Brandy before late Friday night or Saturday morning when the "horrendous beating" by Sarver over lost money orders and food stamps occurred.

But Morrissette said on Friday that "Donna is a different person than she was 18 years ago."

White testified on Friday, "I take full responsibility. I'm still gonna have the guilt in my heart. I know I would have did a lot of things differently."

Dr. Catherine Anderson, a licensed clinical psychologist, testified that White suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming from an abusive childhood, which prevented the woman from properly reacting to situations with which she was confronted.

"She set things into motion to get at this point and she wants us to believe that she can't make choices?" Welch said.

Brandy's father, Richard White, 49, said that he passes by Brandy's grave every day and is saddened because the girl, who now would be 23 years old, cannot have a life.

"(Donna White) should die in there," he said after the ruling.

Richard White said that he is disappointed that the state did not react to his earlier calls that Brandy was being abused and now is more disappointed that the state now is relieving White of her due sentence.

"I feel the full life sentence should have been imposed at sentencing as it was the last time," Welch said. "The beatings this child withstood were horrendous and prolonged. While Mr. Sarver may have made the final blows, she was present and a part in those beatings that week and the events in that time period are not lessened."

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