Governor's commutation for woman in Shore murder case stirs criticism


Gov. William Donald Schaefer's commutation of the life sentence of a woman who burned her husband to death sparked outrage and criticism yesterday from the judge in the case and the victim's brother.

A Kent County jury convicted Dorothy Lou Stevenson of first-degree murder in 1978 after she poured gasoline on her sleeping husband and set him on fire, according to court testimony. She killed her husband, Thomas, hours after she caught him with another woman.

The governor commuted her sentence on Monday. Yesterday, the judge who presided over the trial criticized Mr. Schaefer's decision.

"I think it's outrageous," said former Talbot Circuit Judge Harry E. Clark, who called the case the worst he had handled in 17 1/2 years on the bench.

The victim's brother, Charles R. Stevenson, 58, of St. Michaels said he was "angry, but more disappointed" that he was not notified of the decision. "She'd be 52 or 54 now, but young enough to start her life again," he said. "I certainly wish my brother were that age and alive."

In the past five weeks, Mr. Schaefer has issued pardons or commuted the sentences of 11 others. They include:

* Jerome S. Cardin, former owner of the failed Old Court Savings and Loan Association, who was convicted in 1986 of stealing more than $385,000 from depositors. He died in Florida last December. He was pardoned Sept. 2. His widow, Shoshana, requested the pardon.

* Former Baltimore County State's Attorney Samuel A. Green Jr.. pardoned last week.

* Max Lipman, convicted of theft in Baltimore County District Court in 1982 and pardoned Sept. 22.

* Christopher John Beattie, convicted of assault in Montgomery County People's Court in 1970 and pardoned Sept. 6.

* Francis Melvin Finzel, was convicted of false pretenses and receiving stolen goods in 1978 and 1979 in Allegany County Circuit and pardoned Sept. 6.

* Deborah A. Carroll, was convicted of fraud in Baltimore Circuit Court in 1981 and pardoned Sept. 6.

* Robert Wayne Davis, was convicted of rogue and vagabond trespassing in 1970 in Baltimore District Court and pardoned Sept. 2.

* Kenneth Malcolm Dean, convicted of battery in Baltimore County District Court in 1988 and pardoned Sept. 2.

* Elbert Vernon Coulson Jr., convicted of soliciting in 1987 in Baltimore Circuit Court and pardoned Sept. 2.

* Debra Denise Lee, was convicted of theft in 1985 in Baltimore District Court and pardoned Sept. 2.

* Gary Lee Lehnhoff Jr., convicted of theft in 1982 in Baltimore County District Court and pardoned Sept. 2.

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