Man who robbed Fells Point shop three times sentenced to 20 years

A career criminal whom an irate customer beat with a baseball bat during a holdup of a Fells Point thrift store two years ago was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of robbery.

Mark Lomax, 41, targeted Killer Trash on Broadway three times in eight days. Prosecutors said during his sentencing hearing that the suspect had committed an additional 14 robberies in the span of a month using a collapsible wooden yardstick covered in tape and wrapped in a plastic bag to resemble a firearm.

Federal authorities said their strongest evidence involved the thrift shop, but prosecutors used information about the other robberies to influence sentencing. Police said they matched Lomax's DNA to a baseball cap and $4 he had taken from the thrift shop, but had left behind after the beating.

"I don't regret it at all," said the customer, Michael Voorhis, who testified at Lomax's trial and said in 2009 that he had gotten "about three or four clean shots at his head" with the baseball bat. "I'm happy he got what he got," he said of the sentence.

Voorhis testified at the trial that he attacked more to protect his girlfriend, the clerk, than to perform vigilante justice. Trial testimony showed that the suspect had grabbed her throat and pushed her into a clothing rack during the holdup.

The clerk, Brittany Byers, who is now 23, still works at Killer Trash, though she said on Tuesday she is not as naive.

"It was absolutely terrifying," said Byers, who helped Voorhis beat the suspect by hitting him with a jewelry bag. "It was intimidating to see him again in the courtroom. But there's a part of you that says you have to stick up for yourself. I couldn't back down out of fear. This store is my livelihood. I'm not going to let somebody bully me out of my life."

The suspect has been described in court papers as a destitute ninth-grade dropout who in the summer of 2009 terrorized a string of business owners in some of the most well-traveled areas of the city — Fells Point, Charles Village, Mount Vernon and downtown.

Among the targets, according to police, were the Lutheran Mission Society Compassion Center, a hand-me-down center on Eastern Avenue.

In 2006, Lomax was convicted of robbing the same Subway sandwich shop on North Charles Street — also three times in eight days — but his 21-year sentence was substantially reduced on appeal because of errors by the state judge and prosecutor.

Prosecutors said Lomax never got much from the stores he robbed — a total of $4,500 from 14 in 2009, and nothing from his three attempts at Killer Trash. His spree at the Subway in 2006 got him a total of $510, which police said he spent on drugs.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Baltimore convicted Lomax on June 15 of three counts of robbery. Prosecutors said he held up Killer Trash on Aug. 14, Aug. 20 and Aug. 22, 2009.

Lomax's attorney, federal public defender Franklin W. Draper, did not return a call for comment.

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