As completely disheartened and enraged as many of us still are over the senseless, tragic, brutal murder of Stephen Pitcairn last year, this week's article about Lavelva Merritt's trial ("Woman who helped rob Hopkins' Pitcairn sentenced to 15 years," Nov. 8) opens the floodgates for an equally strong reaction.

Ms. Merritt is quoted as having said, "I punched him in the head and took his phone." She described herself as, "just as guilty as John," referring to the now convicted murderer, John Wagner, Ms. Merritt's boyfriend. Worse still, she is then quoted as having said, "Making myself depressed ain't going to make it no better: I'm not going to sit here and let it take over my life..."

Utterly discouraging, utterly demoralizing words. Judge Gale Rasin accurately reflected upon Ms. Merritt's cold-heartedness, her lack of empathy and her lack of a conscience. I couldn't agree more.

What is unsettling is that Ms. Merritt's heartless reaction regarding Pitcairn's murder — a murder which robbed a mother and two sisters of a magnificent son and brother, and society of a talented, promising medical researcher — brings about in readers like me an even deeper lack of empathy for the Lavelva Merritt's and John Wagner's of the world. Fifteen years is not enough. A lifetime behind bars is not enough.

Myra MacCuaig, Towson