A White Marsh woman will spend the rest of her life in prison for hiring a hit man to kill her husband — a man she has insisted subjected her to years of abuse.
A judge handed down the sentence Monday after jurors rejected Karla Porter's claim of self-defense and convicted her in August of first-degree murder. Prosecutors have disputed the allegations of abuse by William "Ray" Porter, arguing that she concocted them to justify a cold-blooded murder.
"The evidence at the trial was very clear. Every story that she told about these acts of alleged abuse we completely disproved," Deputy State's Attorney John Cox said Monday.
But Porter's defense team still tried to secure a lighter sentence by arguing that her husband would have killed her if she had not acted first. In one incident, her defense said, Ray Porter pointed a gun at his wife, threatened to kill her and told her, "Not one person is going to miss you."
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. sided with the state, ordering the 51-year-old Porter to spend life plus 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole. She was the sixth person sentenced in her husband's death, concluding a legal saga that has lasted nearly three years.
Porter lured her husband to his Towson gas station early on March 1, 2010, by intentionally triggering the security alarm at the business. She later joined Ray Porter at work, carrying on the morning routine until hired gunman Walter Bishop arrived, pulled a gun from his sweatshirt and opened fire. Karla Porter had contacted Bishop 53 times that morning, prosecutors said.
She was the one to call 911 and would later provide police with a false description of the shooter, telling investigators he was a young black man in a black sweatshirt.
Porter's lawyers argued she wouldn't have considered such a course of action if not for the years of spousal abuse she endured. Defense attorney William B. Purpura said the case "dealt with what happened behind closed doors" but that witnesses corroborated her account.
Prosecutors seized on inconsistencies in those accounts, arguing that Karla Porter had exaggerated or fabricated the accusations against her husband.
"We're disappointed," Purpura said. The abuse "dates about 20 years. It's not just one day or two days. It's the aggregate abuse, verbal and physical, year after year. That has to be explained to a jury."
He said that his client deserved a lesser sentence and that he plans to appeal.
Karla Porter testified during trial that she arranged for the shooting death of her 49-year-old husband because she believed that was her only option. She said her husband wanted to move to Florida and she feared he would kill her there, where her family and friends would be unable to protect her.
"If Ray was alive, I would be dead," she said during the trial in August.
During her sentencing, Porter began to cry as her daughter spoke on her behalf.
"What I wouldn't give for one of her hugs," said Megan Porter, who is estranged from her father's family. She said the 30-minute phone calls from the Baltimore County Detention Center and brief visits separated by a glass partition from her mother are not the same.
"She won't be there to help me pick out my wedding dress, and she won't see me get married," she said.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Porter until it was repealed by the state legislature this year. Gunman Walter Bishop, the first person convicted in the case, was eligible for the death sentence, but a jury decided not to sentence him to execution.
Previously, Porter's nephew, Seamus Coyle, who connected Porter with Bishop; Porter's sister, Susan M. Datta, who obtained the gun; Calvin Lee Mowers, who drove Bishop to the station, and Matthew Phillip Brown, who accompanied him, also were convicted and sentenced to prison.
Prosecutors said Porter offered Bishop $9,000 but paid only $400. He wanted the money to pay off child support.
Before handing down the sentence, Cahill said the facts of the case portrayed Porter as a "cold-hearted contract killer" and not a severely abused woman escaping a violent relationship.
Prosecutors said Porter previously asked another man, who had bought a house from the Porters, to kill her husband, weeks before she asked Bishop, but that man did not return her calls. He testified that he went to police about her offer because he feared he might be considered a suspect.
Ray Porter's parents and brother, who sat through many of the trials, said they take some comfort from the series of successful prosecutions.
"We don't have our son; the sentence won't change that," said Ray Porter's mother, Margaret Porter. "I think he [the judge] saw her true character."
Ray Porter's brother, Richard, agreed. "That's the true Karla Porter. She's a very manipulative person, very devious, I think. Sounds weird for us to say that because she's been in our family so long, but obviously she's lied and misled us for so long," he said. "We're glad the judge saw through that."