By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun
7:22 PM EDT, April 28, 2014
A Dundalk woman has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role in a January 2013 shooting and stabbing death in Glen Burnie.
Erica Tywanda Banks, 28, entered an Alford plea to first-degree murder in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on Monday after prosecutors described a 911 tape indicating the victim told an operator before dying: "Erica Banks, she set me up."
An Alford plea means Banks does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to convict her in the murder of 26-year-old Darren Bell of Curtis Bay.
After her plea, Judge Philip T. Caroom sentenced Banks to life in prison with all but 30 years suspended. She'll earn credit for a year she's already served in jail.
Banks is the third person sentenced in Bell's death. Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Poma said Banks was upset with Bell over a $200 marijuana debt. Poma said that after an evening of partying and driving around, Banks, Bell and a third person, Tremain Calhoun Jr., wound up in Banks' SUV on Tanyard Cove Road, in a rural, wooded part of Glen Burnie.
Police said a Bell was on the phone with a 911 operator in the early hours of Jan. 27, 2013, when a pop was heard and the voice on the phone screamed, "They shot me! Erica Banks, she set me up" before the call disconnected.
Bell was found dead of a gunshot wound and more than 20 stabbing and cutting wounds, Poma said. Prosecutors have argued that Erica Banks' father, Eric Banks, showed up at the scene and shot and stabbed Bell. Earlier this month, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years.
Calhoun, who testified he gave Eric Banks a knife, entered an Alford plea to conspiracy to commit murder and also was found guilty. His sentencing is scheduled for May.
Caroom said Erica Banks set the events in motion that led to Bell's death. "You richly deserve the conviction of first-degree murder. This could not have happened without you," he said.
Bell's mother, Katrina Bell, wearing a shirt with her son's picture on it, urged Caroom to punish Erica Banks. "They showed my son no mercy. He didn't deserve to die how he did," she said.
Erica Banks read an apology to Bell's family, speaking through tears. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow," she said.
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