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Killer convicted a second time gets 70 years for 2004 Washington Gardens murder

February 22, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A man convicted a second time in December 2007 for the 2004 shooting death of Jonathan M. Dennis at the Washington Gardens apartment complex in Hagerstown was sentenced Thursday to 70 years in prison.

A Washington County Circuit Court jury in December 2007 found Tyshawn Jones, 26, guilty of second-degree murder in Dennis' death.

"You aimed into that crowd of children," Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. told Jones before he read the sentence.

Of the time that Jones must serve, 30 years are for the second-degree murder conviction. That is the maximum penalty for a conviction on that charge.

Authorities have said the shooting was part of a violent confrontation after Dennis' cousin, Andrew Snyder, was robbed at gunpoint of $8 and a pack of cigarettes.

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"Eight dollars and a pack of smokes. What a waste," the judge said.

In January 2005, Jones, whose last known address was in Hagerstown, was convicted of first-degree felony murder and second-degree depraved heart murder. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison.

In April 2007, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the conviction of first-degree felony murder, which is murder committed during the commission of another felony.

The court ruled that the robbery of Snyder was a separate crime and could not be the basis for first-degree felony murder. It also said the correct procedure for recording a verdict had not been followed.

The appellate court ordered that Jones be tried again on all charges except first-degree felony murder.

The jury in December 2007 deliberated for about an hour and 40 minutes before returning guilty verdicts on two theories of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, armed robbery, multiple counts of reckless endangerment, using a handgun during the commission of a violent crime and other counts.

The jury found Jones guilty of two theories of murder: second-degree depraved heart murder, based on extreme disregard for another person's life, and second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is considered a greater crime than the depraved heart murder charge, which was automatically included when Jones was convicted of second-degree murder. For sentencing purposes, Jones faced only the second-degree murder conviction.

Jones went to Washington Gardens apartment that day in 2004 intending to participate in a robbery, Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said Thursday when he recommended Jones receive 75 years in prison.

"This particular crime is the kind of crime that happens when thugs come to Hagerstown," Michael said Thursday afternoon. The "thugs" prey on vulnerable people, he said.

Jones declined to speak Thursday in court, although his attorney addressed the judge and Dennis' family.

"Nothing can ever change what happens when a child dies," said Alan L. Winik, assigned to Jones' case by the public defender's office.

During the first sentencing hearing, Dennis' mother told Jones she had forgiven him.

"I'm not the one here to judge," Vanessa Dennis said Thursday morning after the second sentencing.

A co-defendant, Azaniah Blankumsee, who previously was convicted of firing at the group coming toward him and Jones, was sentenced in February 2007 to 45 years in prison.

In 2004, Tione Kenneth Blake was sentenced to 25 years for convictions tied to the armed robbery.

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