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Baltimore man gets life sentence, but not forgiveness

Trials and ArbitrationJustice SystemHomicideRadio IndustryFather's Day

When Marie Seale remembers seeing her husband, Terrance, being shot and killed in her Northeast Baltimore apartment in November 2012, forgiveness is the last thing on her mind.

Her two young children still have nightmares after the gunman, Tavon Barnett, turned the weapon on her and her children and pulled the trigger. An apparent malfunction was the only thing that prevented a four-casket funeral.

On Friday, at Barnett's sentencing following a first-degree murder conviction in May, Marie Seale held up a drawing made by her son, who was 5 at the time. It shows a "monster" with jagged teeth and beady eyes holding a blue handgun. A trail of bullets go from the gun into the head of a smiling man — his father — whose forehead is marked by a spot of red.

"You are a monster," Seale told Barnett, 21. "The Bible says that you are supposed to forgive, but I will never forgive you."

Baltimore Circuit Judge Videtta A. Brown showed Barnett no leniency, rejecting an argument that he was a victim of untreated lead-paint poisoning and sentencing him to life in prison, plus 10 years. Barnett's attorney said he will appeal.

Brown, who once lost a relative to city gun violence, also had some words of advice for Marie Seale: "Try a little forgiveness."

"It's not for the forgiven but the forgiver," Brown told her.

Terrance and Marie Seale had been through hard times together, including years in a homeless shelter in New York City. At the time of Terrance Seale's murder, the family was on their feet, living in an apartment in the 1200 block of Linworth Ave. in the New Northwood neighborhood.

Seale, 29, was working as an automatic door salesman and was a DJ for an online radio station. His wife recalled Friday that he was "a good man" and the "best possible father and husband."

About 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2012, prosecutors said, Barnett came over to buy marijuana from Terrance Seale. Marie Seale was in her bedroom getting ready for a job interview while their two sons, who were 3 and 5 at the time, played in a nearby room.

Seale testified that she heard Terrance yell "no!" several times, followed by several gunshots. Assistant State's Attorney Angela Worthy said Seale was shot eight times.

Barnett was convicted by a jury after 31/2 days of deliberation. The motive remains unknown.

At the time of his arrest, Barnett was a student at Achievement Academy, three credits shy of graduating, and had no prior arrests for violence. He has a twin brother, with whom he wanted to start a real estate business.

In a brief statement Friday, Barnett apologized to the family, but his attorneys say he maintains his innocence. They said Marie Seale testified at trial that the killer had a thick Jamaican accent, though Barnett does not have an accent.

"Mr. Barnett, who was just 19 at the time of the offense, and his family are devastated by the sentence imposed," one of the attorneys, Edie Cimino, said in a statement. "We hope to get justice for our client and will be appealing the verdict and asking for a modification of sentence."

Seale has since moved her family back to New York. Her sons cry and have nightmares. The eldest, who drew the picture for a counselor, gets upset when other children talk about their fathers.

Last Father's Day, he drew a card for his father. "My dad … was the greatest dad in the world. I can't wait until I'm old enough to ride on two wheels like him. I love him as much as I love soccer."

The younger child, who suffers from autism, until recently believed that his father was at the laundromat. He now understands that Terrance Seale is "up there" in heaven.

Terrance Seale's mother, Deborah Bowen, mourned the loss of her son but said she forgave Barnett. "I don't have no bad feelings for anyone in my heart. I can forgive," Bowen said.

Barnett's relatives, including his father and his mother, pleaded with Brown not to hand down a life sentence. One of his sisters said she doubted his guilt, questioning Terrance Seale's character and the testimony of Marie Seale, whom she chastised for "walking around bitter."

"Think about us, too," she said of not being able to see her incarcerated brother.

But other relatives simply lamented that the sons of both Seale and Barnett, who has a 3-year-old son, will not have fathers.

"I pray for these boys that they have a figure in their life so they can turn into good men," said another sister of Barnett's.

Brown, a former prosecutor, lost her nephew, Jordan Brown, 18, to a shooting in West Baltimore in 2007. She said the city's gun violence would not be overcome by police or the mayor or the court system, but by young men and women making better choices. She urged Marie Seale to forgive Barnett, if only for herself and her children.

"You're holding them captive to the same thing," Brown said.

She also urged her to develop a relationship with her mother-in-law, from whom she is estranged. "There are stories their grandmother can tell them [about Terrance] that you can't."

After the hearing, Seale said anything was possible but that she was not prepared to wipe the slate clean.

"Honestly, I'm not there yet, and I doubt I will ever be there," she said.

jfenton@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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