An Edgewood teen pleaded guilty Friday to a November 2019 murder in Edgewood, agreeing that a robbery over $60 worth of marijuana ended in a 40-year-old man’s death.
Anthony Lamar Martin Jr., 18, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Harford County Circuit Court for shooting and killing Joshua Crouse, of Joppa. The plea agreement negotiated between defense attorneys and prosecutors calls for a life sentence with all but 40 years suspended.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 23.
According to an agreed-upon statement of facts assistant state’s attorney Angela Diehl read in court, Crouse, his brother and some friends agreed to go to the 1800 block of Grempler Way in Edgewood around 3:19 a.m. Nov. 1, 2019, to purchase $60 in marijuana from Martin, then 16.
The group waited for Martin to show, and when he did, Martin appeared with an assault rifle, Diehl said.
Diehl said Crouse attempted to stop the robbery, even grabbing at the gun, but he was shot once in the upper torso, a wound that killed him. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Soot and stippling on Crouse suggested that the shot was from close range, which would have been brought up at trial.
The gun was never found.
According to charging documents, witnesses provided a description of Martin and said he was inside a nearby gas station before the shooting. Video from the station backed that up, the documents state, and witnesses identified him from a photo lineup.
Throughout Friday’s proceeding, Martin spoke only in short yes or no answers to Judge Yolanda Curtin, who asked him if he was entering his plea voluntarily and apprising him of the rights he waived in entering a guilty plea.
Charging documents naming Martin as Crouse’s killer were signed and filed in court the day after the shooting, but he was not arrested until February 2020, when he walked out of a Baltimore rowhome on Rockrose Avenue and in front of police, who arrested him on-sight.
While Friday’s plea brings Crouse’s mother, Patricia Crouse, a little closure, everything reminds her of her son. His absence has left a hole in her family, she said.
Crouse was a generous, friendly and gentle man, his mother recalled, who was always willing to help others — even borrowing money from her to lend to others in need. When news of his killing spread on the Internet, friends chipped in the entire cost of his funeral and attended his viewing en-masse.
“We did not even have sitting room,” she said.
That is the kind of man her son was, Crouse said, always willing to bring smiles to faces, helpful, kind and loyal.
“There wasn’t nothing he would not do for anybody,” he said. “He would give up the last dollar in his pocket.”
Though the short hearing marked one step closer to the case’s resolution, it is not over for Crouse, who thought that prison was too lenient a punishment. She still thinks about her son every day. Driving around the area and seeing the places she used to frequent reminds her of him, and, every day, she grieves.
“It has been two years .... for me, it’s every day,” she said in a choked voice. “This guy does not know what he did to my family.”
One of Martin’s attorneys, Douglas Dolan, said that, after reviewing the state’s case and holding a suppression hearing, the plea was in Martin’s best interests. Because he was convicted of a crime of violence, Martin will have to serve at least half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
A change to Maryland law also means that Martin can petition the court for a modification of his sentence after 20 years, Dolan said. At that point, a hearing must be held upon request to make the case for a modification of the sentence based on his behavior while incarcerated, educational attainment and participation in prison programs. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys would have the opportunity to weigh in at such a hearing.
The maximum possible sentence for a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder is life in prison, Dolan said.
Dolan said that the situation was tragic for the Crouse family as well as his client, who was 16 at the time of the offense. He said Martin did not mean to hurt anyone when he met Crouse.
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“I am quite certain he did not go there with any intention of hurting anyone,” Dolan said. “It is just how it unfolded.”