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Guilty plea withdrawn in beating death

July 29, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

An 18-year-old withdrew his guilty plea Thursday to second-degree murder in connection with a Hagerstown man's November 2004 beating death, less than three weeks after a Washington County Circuit judge wrote he couldn't, "in good conscience," sentence him according to his plea agreement.

On May 9, Justin Kyle Marshall pleaded guilty before Circuit Judge John H. McDowell to second-degree murder in connection with the Nov. 3, 2004 beating death of Curtis Eugene Hill Sr. Under Marshall's plea agreement, the prosecution offered to drop all remaining charges and seek a maximum 30-year prison sentence, half of which would have to be served.

On Thursday, Marshall's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Eric Reed, told McDowell that Marshall wanted to plead not guilty to all counts listed in his indictment, including first-degree murder, in connection with Hill's death. He asked for a jury trial.

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In a letter dated July 11, addressed to Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell and Reed, McDowell said he read over the results of Marshall's pre-sentence investigation, which he ordered at the May 9 hearing.

"After having read the pre-sentence investigation, victim witness statement and considered the case as a whole, I don't believe that I could, in good conscience, only sentence the defendant to 15 years executed time in the Division of Corrections," McDowell wrote in the court filed letter.

"Should the defendant desire to withdraw his plea, I would certainly allow him to do so and would request that the matter be scheduled for trial as quickly as possible," McDowell wrote.

Marshall, whose last known address is listed in charging documents as 12022 Sherwood Drive, was 17 years old at the time of his arrest and was charged as an adult.

He has been held without bond at the Washington County Detention Center since Nov. 4, 2004, a jail spokeswoman said Thursday.

Hill, 46, was found dead, lying under a tree near an alley near Russo's Rx Pharmacy on North Cannon Avenue, at about 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2004.

Charging documents allege Marshall and co-defendant Larry Wayne Shriner, 21 - who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder under the same agreement as Marshall - approached Hill in the alley that morning, kicked and beat him and dragged him under the tree.

Court records allege Shriner, with Marshall along with him in a car on one occasion, checked twice during the morning to see if Hill was breathing.

"He wanted to make sure he wasn't moving," Kessell said during the May hearing, which was originally scheduled as a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence.

On Thursday, Reed said Shriner has not decided whether to withdraw his guilty plea.

Attorneys in Shriner's case received the same letter from McDowell, according to court records.

Reed said that Marshall would waive his right to have the case heard within 180 days.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion told McDowell that a suppression hearing might also need to be scheduled, since the originally scheduled suppression hearing resulted in guilty pleas from Shriner and Marshall.

Reed told McDowell that the defense "stopped preparing for the trial several months ago" and needs to make contact again with experts and witnesses.

McDowell said attorneys for both sides should meet and determine dates for trial.

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