By Guy Leonard, County Times
LEONARDTOWN, Md. (March 26, 2009)—A man accused of carjacking a 75-year-old heart patient from a dentists office parking lot in Leonardtown last year was found not guilty of first-degree and second-degree murder Wednesday after a two-day trial.
While the defendant avoided blame for the murder charges, he was found guilty of armed robbery, armed carjacking, kidnapping, and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.
States Attorney Richard Fritz argued through expert testimony that when Stephen Brown-Santos brandished a gun at Billy Gene Gurley June 20 that the victims weak heart could not stand the fright, and after being driven to the back of a hardware store in Leonardtown to rob him, he later died.
John Getz, the defendants attorney, however, argued that Gurley, who according to medical records had smoked oneand-a-half to two packs of cigarettes a day for 50 years, was in such precarious health that anything might have caused his death.
None of us can tell you to check your brains at the front door of the court house, Fritz told the jury in Judge C. Clarke Raleys courtroom. We have common sense.
Fritz said that the sight of Brown-Santos .25 caliber pistol as he told Gurley to move over and give the defendant control of the car that summer day wouldve implanted in the victims mind that he was in mortal danger.
It scared him, Fritz argued. Whats in your mind? Hes going to kill me.
According to police reports Gurley was left in his car at the shopping center by Brown-Santos the day of the robbery and the victim went back to the parking lot of the dentists office.
Eventually he was transported to St. Marys Hospital where he died shortly thereafter of a heart attack.
Getz argued, however, that Gurley had earlier that same day bought a heavy propane tank that the victim should not have been lifting against doctors orders.
Getz, who theorized that the heavy activity might have caused the death, said that medical testimony during the trial showed that physical activity could have a delayed affect on the heart.
Shortly after Gurleys death, detectives with the county Bureau of Criminal Investigations stated that they searched Brown-Santos home on information received from a confidential witness and found the gun and a class ring the defendant had allegedly taken from Gurley and given to his girlfriend.
In Brown-Santos statement taken by police he said he realized that the man he had carjacked was old and frail and he said he tried to come him as he drove him the shopping center.
Mr. Brown-Santos knew he got into something he should not have
Getz said of his client. All the while he was telling Gurley that everything was going to be alright.
He does not deserve to found guilty of Mr. Gurleys death.
Police Make Two Arrests in St. Mary's Robberies, July 1, 2008
Murder, Carjacking Suspect May Challenge Confession, Dec. 13, 2008