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Man's life sentence in ex-wife's murder is unchanged

January 24, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

The life sentence of a man convicted of plotting and carrying out the murder of his ex-wife nearly 30 years ago remained unchanged Monday after a Washington County Circuit Court judge denied his motion for modification of sentence.

A jury in 1982 convicted Wayne Alanson Foster, 64, of first-degree murder in the Oct. 6, 1981, shooting death of his ex-wife, Sherry Foster, 28, of Martinsburg, W.Va. Her body was found in her disabled car on Md. 66 south of Hagerstown. She had been shot five times.

“If I could take back the events of the weeks prior to Oct. 6, 1981, and the events of that night, I would certainly do that,” Foster said Monday.

Foster, formerly of Falling Waters, W.Va., maintained his innocence during his trial. On Monday, he asked Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III to modify his sentence to “something that would give me hope for release someday.”

“Life imprisonment was correct and just in 1981,” Wright said at the conclusion of Foster’s modification hearing. “There must be finality for the consequences of that planned murder.”

Foster’s attorney, Michael P. Lytle, asked Wright to consider a modification of the life sentence to suspend all but a period of years so his client might have some chance of leaving prison.

“If nothing happens, it won’t be long before he dies in prison,” Lytle said.

Foster had a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery several years ago.

Lytle said Foster led “an exemplary life” before going to prison and since his incarceration. Lytle said Foster was an Eagle Scout, a student at the Air Force Academy and a police officer before his conviction.

Foster remarried in prison, and several family members and friends were present in the courtroom, Lytle said.

“I believe Wayne should get some relief,” said Rick Schutte, a correctional officer at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, who has known Foster for 25 years. Foster has avoided gang affiliation and has been a positive influence on younger inmates, Schutte said.

“I believe he would be a person who would conform himself to the rules of society,” longtime friend Douglas Houck said.

“When you knew him in 1981 and 1982, did you believe he was a risk at that point?” Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael asked Houck.

“No,” Houck said.

Foster abducted his ex-wife at gunpoint months before she was killed, and shot her in the hand, Michael told Wright. Foster “tormented” his ex-wife for months before the killing, Michael said.

George Geyer, the husband of Sherry Foster’s sister, Leslie, spoke for the family Monday. He said Wayne Foster’s abuse of Sherry Foster went back to when the couple lived in Colorado and he forced her to spend a winter night outside.

Of the abduction, Geyer said Foster had taken his ex-wife from an aerobics class in front of witnesses, later tying her to a tree and shooting her. The day she was killed, Wayne Foster loosened the oil plug of her car, followed her until the car broke down and killed her, Geyer said.

“He knew she would be out on some lonely road when the engine seized up,” Geyer said.

“He’s asking for mercy. ... When did he ever show mercy?” Geyer asked Wright.

Foster has not requested a parole hearing since 1996 and was trying to shift that burden to the court, Michael said. Foster still could seek a parole hearing or medical parole, Michael said.

Lytle argued that almost no prisoners with life sentences have been paroled since 1995 in Maryland, although former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. commuted six to a period of time served. A medical parole is only available for prisoners on their death beds, Lytle said.

“Justice was affirmed again,” Leslie Geyer said after the hearing.

“I think it’s the peace of mind we were looking for,” Sherry Foster’s sister, Kay Himes, said of Wright’s decision.

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