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Eger sentenced to life in prison

April 06, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Alec Scott Eger
Submitted photo,

HAGERSTOWN - Alec Scott Eger, who entered a plea earlier this year to first-degree murder in the Halloween 2008 killing of Billy Lee Black, was sentenced Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to life in prison.

Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer denied a defense request that Eger, 20, be sentenced to life with all but 25 years suspended.

Dwyer also denied a defense request that Eger be sent to Patuxent Institution, a state prison equipped to provide mental health treatment and counseling.

"The goal of the Patuxent Institution is to send a person back to society," Dwyer said as relatives and friends of Eger and Black watched. "That's not my goal, at least at this time."

Black, 47, was killed at about 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2008, outside his home on West Church Street, Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said Jan. 26, when Eger's Alford plea was accepted by the court.

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Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the state has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

"I am so sorry and would do anything to change what has happened," Eger told Black's family before the sentencing. He said he was led to believe that Black's daughter, Danielle, needed protection.

"Alec Eger is not the victim," Black's widow, Andrea, told the judge earlier in the hearing. "Alec Eger made himself God, judge and the jury that morning in the alley" behind their home, she said.

Black was found slumped against his truck, stabbed 20 times, including four wounds to his face and neck, Cirincion said during the sentencing hearing.

Eger, of Hagerstown, told investigators the incident was prompted by claims from Black's daughter that her father was abusive, according to the statement of probable cause filed by the Hagerstown Police Department, portions of which were read in court.

Eger told investigators he confronted Black and a struggle ensued, according to the statement. When Black tried to grab a knife from Eger's belt, Eger took another from his pocket and fatally stabbed Black, according to the statement.

"I just find that unlikely," Dwyer said of the purported confrontation. "There didn't seem to be any knife wounds on you."

Danielle Black, 16, was sentenced Oct. 23, 2009, to life in prison with all but 10 years suspended for a conviction on a charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. She was convicted in July of trying to get a friend to kill her father. Eger was not the man whom she approached to commit the murder, according to court records.

Danielle Black had shown Eger bruises on her body -- which Assistant Public Defender Jerome Joyce said were probably self-inflicted -- and blamed the injuries on her father, Joyce said.

Joyce and Stefanie McArdle, the deputy division chief for the Office of the Public Defender's Aggravated Homicide Division, presented witnesses who testified that Eger suffered through a childhood in which he repeatedly was abused physically, emotionally and sexually.

Much of the physical and emotional abuse was at the hands of a stepfather, according to testimony by Renee Burgan, a social worker for the Office of the Public Defender. Eger also moved about 30 times during his youth and spent time with relatives and in foster care, Burgan testified. She said Eger's mother thwarted efforts by others to get the boy out of his abusive situation.

Eger suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, auditory and visual hallucinations, depression and substance dependence, clinical psychologist Lawrence Donner of Baltimore testified.

"He didn't go there to kill Mr. Black," but to protect Danielle Black from what he believed was an abusive situation, Donner testified. Years of abuse led Eger to believe he had to protect those he perceived as vulnerable, Donner testified.

"She, in effect, created a bomb," Dwyer said of Eger's mother before passing sentence, "and Danielle Black lit the fuse."

Eger's mother sobbed when the sentence was announced, and she left the courtroom without commenting.

Cirincion argued before the judge that Eger had been lying in wait for Black and killed him in cold blood. Defensive wounds to Black's hands "effectively severed his thumbs" leaving him helpless, and another wound nearly severed his spinal cord, Cirincion told the judge.

"Alec Eger should not be defined only by this crime," McArdle told the court. "His character has been damaged by abuse and the resulting trauma."

With the right treatment, Eger could redeem himself, McArdle said.

Andrea Black said her husband also was raised by an abusive father, but that Black never wanted to live his life that way.

"He said he'd never be like his father, and Alec had that choice, too," Andrea Black said. "Life is what you make of it."

Eger has 90 days to file a motion for modification of his sentence, McArdle said after the hearing.

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