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Man pleads guilty to killing cellmate

January 11, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Kevin G. Johns, who already was serving time for first-degree murder, pleaded guilty Monday to killing his 16-year-old cellmate while the two were housed together at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown on Jan. 23, 2004.

Johns, 22, who was sentenced in Baltimore City Circuit Court in March 2003 to serve 35 years for a first-degree murder conviction, pleaded guilty in Washington County Circuit Court Monday to premeditated first-degree murder for the Jan. 23 strangling death of his 16-year-old cellmate, Armad Cloude.

Cloude was sentenced in October 2002 in Baltimore City Circuit Court to serve a 12-year sentence for second-degree murder.

Johns faces the possibility of a life sentence without parole. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 1.

Questioned about his willingness and competency to enter the plea, Johns told Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III that for about the past month he has been off medication prescribed by a psychiatrist to "calm me down and stop my mood swings." His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison, said Johns' "doctor told me last week he was competent."

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Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said Johns and Cloude were housed together in a cell in the segregation tier of MCTC on Jan. 23, 2004. A check on the cellmates was made at about 1 a.m. and both were alive, he said, but at about 3 a.m., after a "breakfast meal" was served, "the defendant announced to an officer: 'There's something wrong with my cell buddy.'"

Michael said Cloude was found dead, "laying against the wall, slumping to the left side." A state medical examiner ruled he died of asphyxiation and blunt force trauma, he said.

Johns admitted to an investigator in a taped statement that he "stomped (Cloude) in his head" because he was "provoked," Michael said.

Cloude "was always talking to his little (expletive) buddies, saying he gonna do this, he gonna do that and all that stuff," Johns said in the statement.

Michael said Cloude's body was found with "a phrase from a Sidney Sheldon novel on his chest." He did not elaborate about what was written on the page during the hearing.

Johns was transferred from MCTC to the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, said George Gregory, spokesperson for the Maryland Division of Correction.

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