A county jury on Monday found a Baltimore man guilty of killing a Glen Burnie dentist, bringing a second conviction in a murder-for-hire plot nearly six years ago.
But the case is far from closed.
County prosecutors said two accomplices in the fatal stabbing and beating of Dr. Albert Woonho Ro on Sept. 26, 2006, remain unidentified.
They, along with Ro's family, are seeking the public's help in closing the book on the year-long murder investigation.
"This past week has been an emotionally draining and painful time for our family," Ro's children - James, 26, Thomas, 25, and Annie, 30 - and wife Susan said in a prepared statement following Monday's verdict. "Knowing that there are still two other individuals involved, we ask that if anyone has any further information to please do the right thing and help bring justice to our father and family."
After about four hours of deliberating, a jury of 10 women and two men convicted Dante Jeter of conspiracy to commit murder, felony first-degree murder, robbery and related counts. Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess will seek life in prison without the possibility of parole at sentencing July 24.
Jeter is currently serving a life sentence with all but 60 years suspended for a 2008 murder in Baltimore City over a $150 drug debt.
Monday's verdict came one week after opening statements in the week-long murder trial in county Circuit Court in Annapolis. The trial was held before Judge Pamela L. North.
Two female jurors, who would only identify themselves as "juror six" and "juror 11," said it all came down to one left ring fingerprint matching Jeter, found on a toothbrush box inside a supply closet at the office of Dr. Albert Woonho Ro. The dentist, 51, was found stabbed 45 times and beaten beyond recognition in his dental practice at 1414 Crain Highway.
Prosecutors said Ro's dental assistant, Shontay Hickman, plotted the killing in an attempt to cover a theft scheme.
In her six hours of testimony last week, Hickman, 37, a married mother of three, admitted to stealing $17,000 in insurance reimbursement checks from Ro's practice after her family fell on tough economic times. When Ro discovered the thefts, she hired her first cousin's half-brother, Jeter, then 19, to kill the dentist before he could turn her in. She paid him $1,000.
She took Jeter and two unidentified men to the office, let them in with a key and waited for Ro to return.
Ro's body was discovered hours later by county police, who had been called to check on Ro after he didn't return home at 7 p.m. as usual.
The killing was a cold case until mid-2010, when a fingerprint found on a box of toothbrushes inside Ro's office led police to Jeter, who was jailed in Baltimore City awaiting trial an unrelated 2008 murder. Jeter was recently convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison for that crime, according to electronic court records. When shown a photograph of Hickman, Jeter told police he is her first cousin's half-brother.
Jurors six and 11 told
following Monday's verdict that it was the fingerprint and not Hickman's testimony that convinced the jury of Jeter's guilt.
"There's no other way that fingerprint got there," one juror said.
They said they would not have been able to convict Jeter had the state lacked the fingerprint evidence.
Both women said Hickman was not credible and pointed out that Hickman was emotional only during testimony that involved her young children.
Hickman pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to first-degree murder and was sentenced by North to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In exchange for last week's testimony, her sentence will be modified to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.
Leitess praised the police and the technicians who broke the Ro case. But said the book is yet to be closed on the case.
"It was through the diligence of the Anne Arundel County Police Homicide and Cold Case Squad, crime scene technicians, DNA and Latent Print Units who preserved the evidence and uncovered it piece by piece over the last five years which allowed the state to build a successful prosecution against both Dante Jeter and Shontay Hickman for murder of Dr. Albert Ro," she said.
"We are extremely pleased with the jury's verdict and thank each of them for their time and commitment. While the verdict closes this part of the case, the case unfortunately remains open, as there are two more accomplices out there who participated in the murder."
Officials request anyone with any information about these individuals contact the Anne Arundel County Police Department Cold Case squad at 410-222-3460.