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Convicted murderer sentenced to prison

July 17, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A man convicted in May of first-degree murder for the April 13, 2006, stabbing death of Leo Anthony Morris was sentenced Monday to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.

Marshall Adams, 27, appeared in Washington County Circuit Court Monday morning for his sentencing hearing.

Morris was stabbed and cut 32 times during the attack in the Bethune Avenue area in Hagerstown. In a taped confession to police, played during his three-day trial in May, Adams said he "got scared" in the middle of a drug deal with Morris.

Adams told police he needed money and planned to sell drugs to Morris, but Morris grabbed Adams' wrist and stepped forward, Adams was heard saying on the tape.

"I got scared," Adams said on the tape.

Whatever happened between Adams and Morris that day seemed to be an attempted drug transaction, Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long said Monday before he imposed the sentence.

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"Both participants were in places they should not have been," Long said.

Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion had asked Long to sentence Adams to life without parole.

Cirincion called the murder a brutal stabbing that involved "repeated plunges into the body of the victim," she said.

Cirincion also mentioned Adams' previous criminal history and that he had been out of prison less than three months when he stabbed Morris.

Everyone involved in the investigation from the Hagerstown Police Department and State's Attorney's office was familiar with Adams and his criminal past, she said.

Life without parole is a sentence reserved as an alternative to the death penalty, and is a sanction for the worst cases and worst offenders, said Deputy District Public Defender Mary S. Riley.

Riley said her client's record was "not that bad." Adams' previous record included three drug convictions, two of them felonies. The felony drug convictions involved fake crack cocaine, she said.

His other convictions were for urinating in public and for a minor assault, Riley said.

Adams was not previously a violent offender and he showed remorse for his actions, according to the testimony of Detective Jason Ackerman, Riley said.

During the trial, Ackerman testified that Adams looked like he had a weight on his shoulder when the detective took his statement about the stabbing, Riley said.

A rough upbringing and the diagnosis of a mental disorder did not excuse Adams' actions, but made him who he was, Riley said. Adams struggled to live a normal life, she said.

Morris' family attended the sentencing hearing but declined to comment.

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