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Baltimore woman pleads guilty to role in Catonsville murder


A Baltimore woman pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her role in the September 1990 murder of a Philadelphia sales representative at the Quality Inn in Catonsville.

Donna Jo Denson, 29, was convicted in March 1991 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The Maryland Court of Appeals voided that conviction last July and sent the case back for a new trial.

Yesterday, in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Denson pleaded guilty to felony murder under an agreement reached by Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey and Assistant Public Defender Jerri Peyton. Denson has been imprisoned since being arrested in October 1990.

Prosecutors say Denson drove the getaway car and acted as a lookout for Rowland Keith Hudson, who robbed and killed Valerie Esther Brown, a 30-year-old saleswoman for Holt, Rinehart & Winston Co.

Ms. Brown was shot in the chest on Sept. 17, 1990, as she entered a hallway at the motel in the 5800 block of Baltimore National Pike.

Hudson, 36, is serving a life sentence plus 20 years. He pleaded guilty in 1991 after Denson testified that she didn't know he was going to rob Ms. Brown.

Denson, formerly of the 5900 block of Schering Road, said nothing yesterday. The attorneys told Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull II that the plea bargain calls for Denson to serve 10 years with the built-in reductions for good behavior and her work at the prison sewing shop.

In its July 1993 opinion, the Court of Appeals said a jury instruction unfairly lowered the standard for conviction from the required proof beyond a reasonable doubt to a simple weighing of the evidence.

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