Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

Teen sentenced to life for 1991 attempted murder plans to appeal


A 17-year-old Aberdeen youth sentenced to life in prison for the attempted murder of a gas station clerk is expected to appeal his conviction in Harford Circuit Court this week.

James Richard Smith is one of two youths charged as adults in the Aug. 31, 1991, stabbing of the clerk in a wooded area near the Warwick Apartments in Aberdeen.

The defendants were charged with stabbing a friend, Brian Neil Tharpe, in the neck. The stabbing occurred after Mr. Tharpe demanded that Mr. Brown return $500 he reportedly took 10 days earlier from an Amoco service station where the victim worked.

Mr. Smith was convicted of attempted murder, assault with intent to maim, assault and battery and a weapons charge after a June jury trial.

Harford Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron sentenced Smith to the maximum penalty for the charge on July 17. The judge also denied a motion for a new trial.

"We were truly shocked by the life sentence," said Mara Pais, Mr. Smith's attorney. "We'll be filing everything we can, quite frankly."

In addition to the appeal, Ms. Pais said she will file a request to modify Mr. Smith's sentence and seek a review of the sentence by a panel of three judges.

On Wednesday, the co-defendant in the case, Derrick Keith Brown, 17, of Aberdeen, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder before Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill.

As part of the agreement, the prosecution dropped charges of assault with intent to maim, assault and battery, two counts of theft and two weapons charges.

Brown was initially sentenced to 40 years in prison, but Judge Whitfill suspended half of the sentence.

Aberdeen police gave the following account of the robbery and the stabbing:

Mr. Tharpe allowed Brown to enter the attendant's booth at the service station when Brown came to visit him at about 3 a.m. Aug. 21, 1991.

After Brown left the station, Mr. Tharpe discovered $500 was missing from a money bag. Mr. Tharpe informed his boss of the robbery, but told her he would get the money back.

A few days after the robbery, Brown returned to the service station. "At this time, the victim told the defendant that if he did not return the money, he was going to the police," the report says.

Brown and Smith arrived at the station to tell Mr. Tharpe to come with them to get the money, as the attendant's shift was ending at 8 a.m. Aug. 31, 1991.

The defendants took Mr. Tharpe to a wooded area near the Warwick Apartments, off Interstate 95. There, they struck the victim on the back of the head, then kicked and punched him.

"At this time, [Brown] pulled out a knife and said, 'Man, I can't stick him,' " the report says. "[Smith] said, 'I can,' and took the knife from [Brown]."

Smith then stabbed Mr. Tharpe on the right side of his neck. "The victim heard [Brown] say, 'Man, you killed him,' " according to the report.

The youths left the scene after taking $240 in cash, a $20 check and keys from Mr. Tharpe's car, police said. The victim got to an I-95 exit ramp, where a passing motorist picked him up and took him to Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace for treatment.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad