On what would have been the victim's 90th birthday yesterday, the man who raped and murdered his girlfriend's grandmother at her home in Towson in 1981 received a reduced prison sentence.
Vincent T. Greco Jr., 32, said he's changed after 10 years in prison, and told his former trial judge, Paul E. Alpert of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, that counseling has helped him conquer his problems with drug and alcohol abuse and a lack of self-esteem.
The opinion that Greco now deserves a break wasn't shared by half the crowd seated in the small Baltimore County courtroom in Towson: his former girl friend, who called him an "animal," and other grandchildren, children and great-grandchildren of the victim, Leta J. Larsen.
But after a daylong sentence modification hearing, Judge Alpert changed his sentence to make Greco's two life sentences run concurrently, rather than consecutively.
Greco's discouraged father, Vincent T. Greco Sr. of Timonium, said he didn't think the ruling would improve his son's chances for parole. He and many other members of Greco's family filled the benches on the other side of the courtroom.
But Assistant State's Attorney A. Dean Stocksdale said he was told that "in all likelihood, it will mean his parole eligilbity will come up in about half the time," or in about 2 1/2 years.
Mrs. Larsen, a 79-year-old widow, was raped and killed on April 17, 1981, after an intoxicated Greco confronted her at her home in the 1000 block of Marleigh Circle because she said he wasn't man enough for her granddaughter, Sheryl Parks.
To prove otherwise, Greco has since admitted, he raped Mrs. dTC Larsen, then beat her to death when she screamed at him.
Throughout the incident, Mrs. Larsen's 9-year-old granddaughter and 10-year-old great-granddaughter cowered under their covers in the next room.
Both children, now young women, remain traumatized by the belief that they should have -- somehow -- saved Mrs. Larsen, and that her death was their fault, their parents said yesterday in emotional victim-impact statements presented by Mr. Stocksdale.
At his trial in 1982, Greco had claimed Mrs. Larsen had seduced him, then stabbed him, and that he killed her accidently in a struggle. When he discovered the two girls he took them with him to College Park to find his girlfriend.
The 1982 trial jury rejected Greco's tale and the state sought the death penalty. But Judge Alpert said then he saw hope for the then-22-year-old Greco and imposed the life sentences.
And yesterday, prison officials, guards and staff, psychologists and doctors, chaplains and professors testified, or submitted affidavits, on Greco's behalf. Many called him a model prisoner and said he has been rehabilitated while in the notorious Maryland Penitentiary.
In prison, according to the testimony and affidavits, Greco has finished high school and earned a college degree; been assigned a highly independent and responsible job at the Pen; raised funds for charities; tutored other prisoners; and painted the AIDS ward. He has undergone therapy for sex offenders, kicked his drug and alcohol problems, and is working to improve a speech defect.
Mr. Stocksdale was unimpressed by the testimony and Greco's prison accomplishments, however, saying Greco got his break when he escaped the death penalty. He confronted Greco on the stand saying, "Mr. Greco, you've been talking for an hour." Then he spun around and pointed to Mrs. Larsen's survivors and said, "There they are, right there. For an entire hour you've had the opportunity to apologize to them for what you did . . . you've never done that to this day have you?"
Greco responded mildly, "No, I did not. I didn't think it would do any good."