A Dundalk man accused of killing his brother-in-law last spring outside the neighborhood bar the victim owned has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, the third person to plead in the case, in which the bar owner's wife is also charged.

Robert M. Garner, 28, was accused of shooting Lee Martin eight times with a .22-caliber handgun early in the morning on Saturday, May 22, outside Hops Inn, a bar Martin owned on Railway Avenue in Dundalk. Garner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Monday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, said Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Dever, and was returned to the county Detention Center to await sentencing. No date has been set for sentencing, Dever said.

Charging documents said Garner — whose sister, Jaclyn J. Martin, was Lee Martin's wife — paid two teenagers to help him carry out the killing. Sturm R. Davis and Brandon M. Roth, both of whom were 19 when the killing occurred, pleaded guilty and are also in jail awaiting sentencing, Dever said. Jaclyn J. Martin, 31, is in jail awaiting her trial on a charge of first-degree murder, which is scheduled for January.

Martin, who was 43 and left two children from a previous marriage, was shot about 2 a.m. outside the bar. He had apparently just locked up and was walking to his home next door when he was attacked. Garner was accused of shooting Martin eight times, then driving off with Davis and Roth.

A Baltimore County police spokesman said last year that Garner paid Davis $300 and Roth $100, but it was not clear whether Jaclyn Martin had given Garner any money.

Dever said prosecutors were convinced that Davis and Roth thought they were there to beat up Martin, not kill him. Davis pleaded guilty last November to armed robbery and use of a handgun in a crime of violence. The state is recommending a sentence of 30 years, with all but 10 years suspended.

Roth, who drove the car to and from the scene, pleaded guilty in October 2010 to first-degree assault. The state is recommending a sentence of 25 years, with all but 10 years suspended.

Dever said the state will not pursue the death penalty against Jaclyn Martin because the evidence does not meet the standard established under Maryland's revised capital punishment law. Under the law, which went into effect last year, prosecutors must have DNA or other biological evidence, a video recording of a confession or a video that "conclusively" links the defendant to the crime.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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