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Hagerstown teen pleads guilty to soliciting her father's murder, is sentenced

Danielle Black sentenced to life, with all but six years suspended

earlier conviction had been overturned

January 17, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Danielle Black peeks out of a courthouse door in this 2009 file photo.
File Photo

HAGERSTOWN — A former Hagerstown teenager who was convicted of asking a classmate to murder her father in 2008 only to see that conviction overturned later by a state appeals court pleaded guilty Tuesday to solicitation of murder in Washington County Circuit Court.

Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. sentenced Danielle Renee Black, 18, to serve a life sentence with all but six years suspended. Black was given credit for a little more than three years of time served and will be subject to five years of supervised probation upon her release.

Black entered the courtroom dressed in blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt with the letters “D.O.C.” printed on the back. Her ankles were fastened by a chain.

The body of 47-year-old Billy Lee Black was found on the morning of Oct. 31, 2008, in a pool of blood near a pickup truck in the back yard of a house at 210 James St. in Hagerstown’s West End.

Black, who was 15 at the time of her father’s death, was convicted by a jury in 2009 of soliciting a classmate, Matthew Gray, to kill her father just weeks before the murder.

Gray testified at Danielle Black’s trial that she asked him to “take care of” her father, but it was another man, Alec Scott Eger, who was convicted of the killing.

Eger pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2010 and was sentenced to serve life in prison.

In a 51-page opinion released in August, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that Long erred in allowing evidence into the 2009 trial.

The court ruled that Black’s case should either receive another hearing to determine if her case should be transferred to the juvenile justice system, or receive a new trial on the adult criminal charge.

County Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael said after Black’s sentencing Tuesday that the prosecution agreed to the plea deal because the appeals court ruled that the prosecution couldn’t say that Billy Lee Black was brutally slain after his daughter solicited a classmate to commit the murder.

During the proceedings, Michael said that the appeals court’s decision was akin to making the prosecution try the case with “one arm tied behind its back.”

Mary Drawbaugh, Black’s defense attorney, said her client has been incarcerated since December 2008.

She told the court that Black has worked to improve her life by earning a graduate equivalency diploma and completing nine college credits.

“She has taken advantage of everything she could while in prison,” Drawbaugh said.

Black intends to move to West Virginia to live with her mother and attend college after she is released, Drawbaugh said.

After the sentencing, Drawbaugh said that she believed Black would be paroled before completing her sentence.

 

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