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Shriner withdraws guilty plea in beating death case

August 12, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The second of two young men charged in the November 2004 beating death of Curtis Eugene Hill Sr. withdrew his guilty plea Thursday in connection with the homicide.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell, who accepted Larry Wayne Shriner's guilty plea to second-degree murder in May, wrote a letter to Shriner's attorney in July saying he could not, "in good conscience," sentence Shriner according to his plea agreement.

On Thursday, Shriner, 21, withdrew his guilty plea and pleaded not guilty to all charges listed in the indictment, including first-degree murder. He requested a jury trial.

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In exchange for Shriner's May plea, the prosecution had offered to drop all remaining charges and seek a maximum 30-year prison sentence, half of which would have to be served.

Shriner's co-defendant, Justin Kyle Marshall, 18, also pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder in connection with Hill's Nov. 3 death, under the same agreement. Marshall, whose attorney received the same letter, withdrew his guilty plea in July, pleaded not guilty to all counts and requested a jury trial.

Shriner's trial is scheduled for three days beginning Feb. 22, 2006, and Marshall's trial is scheduled for three days beginning Jan. 4, 2006, according to court records.

The prosecution intends to seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for both, if convicted, documents state.

In a letter dated July 11 and addressed to Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell and Shriner's attorney, Richard Winters, McDowell said he read over the results of Shriner's presentence 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.

Shriner and Marshall have 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 beside Russo's Rx Pharmacy on North Cannon Avenue, at about 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2004.

Charging documents allege Shriner and 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.

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