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N.Y. man pleads guilty in Hagerstown bar death

Urquhart faces up to 50 years in prison for killing Greencastle man

Urquhart faces up to 50 years in prison for killing Greencastle man

February 26, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A New York City man faces up to 50 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Monday morning to second-degree murder in the May 2007 shooting death of Christopher Jason Ayala at a local bar.

Stephen Lamar Urquhart, 27, was charged with first-degree murder in Ayala's death. A warrant was issued for Urquhart's arrest, and he was captured in August in New York City.

Ayala, 23, of Greencastle, Pa., was found on the floor of Zipper's bar on North Jonathan Street suffering from a gunshot wound around 11 p.m. on May 22. He was taken to Washington County Hospital, where he died.

Police have said Ayala and Urquhart were acquaintances before the shooting.

On the night of the shooting, Ayala walked up to another man in the bar and punched him, Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler said Monday in court.

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Ayala and the man, Omar Eipps, got into a fistfight, after which Eipps left the bar, Pauler said.

Debbie Campher, who worked at the bar but was not working that night, heard a man say, "shoot the (expletive)," and she identified Urquhart as the man who lowered his gun immediately after a shot rang out, Pauler said.

Urquhart then followed Eipps out the door, Pauler said.

According to Campher, no one else had a weapon, Pauler said.

Urquhart told investigators that he threw the gun used in the fatal shooting into a body of water somewhere between Hagerstown and New York City, Pauler said.

Urquhart also pleaded guilty Monday morning to use of a handgun during the commission of a violent crime. Other charges, including first-degree murder and assault charges, were dropped in exchange for the plea.

He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for second-degree murder and 20 years for the handgun violation.

Members of Ayala's family traveled from New York for the court hearing, and they said they would return to Hagerstown for his sentencing March 20.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. accepted the plea.

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