A Baltimore Circuit Court judge sentenced Michael Edward Joseph Reiriz yesterday to two consecutive life terms for bludgeoning his grandparents to death with a baseball bat as they slept in their Guilford home nearly a year ago.
Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe had little patience for Reiriz's claims that the killings of Dr. Walter E. E. Loch, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon, and his wife, Dr. Mary Hyde Loch, were committed in a blind rage over his grandfather's strict discipline and disapproval of Reiriz's separated but still-married girlfriend.
The judge often interrupted the testimony of a defense psychiatrist who concluded that Walter Loch's disapproval and sometimes physical abuse, as well as beatings by two stepfathers and fear over losing his girlfriend, explained Reiriz's outburst of violence.
Walter Loch, 88, was a pioneer in ear, nose and throat medicine. His wife, 81, was an obstetrician who gave up her practice to raise five children.
"I have not been able to comprehend how a human being could do such a thing, especially to his own grandparents who obviously loved him," Judge Bothe said. "Anyone who could do something like this, how could anyone say he wouldn't do it again?"
The sentence was the maximum the judge could have imposed under a plea bargain in which Reiriz pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.
Reiriz, 31, speaking quietly and breaking into heaving sobs at times, spoke for more than an hour about the events leading to the murders. He said he never really knew his biological father and had hoped for a substitute, only to be abused by two other men his mother later married.
When he went to his grandparents about the beatings, they told him "he's doing it because he loves you," Reiriz said. Shortly before the slayings, Dr. Loch and his grandson had heated confrontations over Reiriz's girlfriend, Carol Zittle, a co-worker from Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson.
Angry over his grandfather's disapproval, Reiriz stole the doctor's credit card and booked a trip to Jamaica for himself and Ms. Zittle. He said he went to the Lochs' home in the 200 block of Stratford Road in the early hours of Aug. 14 to leave them a note about the credit card, or somehow to get his grandmother to cover his tracks until the trip was over.
Instead, he beat the two as they lay sleeping, showered in another room and ransacked the house to make it look like a burglary. Hours later, he and Ms. Zittle were on the trip to Jamaica.
"I love you. I'm sorry," Reiriz said to the relatives who sat in the courtroom yesterday. "I've hurt you all terribly. I want you to know I understand your anger.
"Things that happened with Grandpop in my life were not always right. It does not give permission for what I did."
Reiriz offered no explanation for killing his grandmother, whom he said he loved and wanted to protect from his grandfather. In a statement to police shortly after the slayings, Reiriz said he bludgeoned Mary Loch because he knew she could not bear to live alone.
Mr. Kaminkow asked Judge Bothe to sentence Reiriz to concurrent life sentences, so that he would be punished severely but have hope of being paroled within 15 years. With consecutive life sentences, it is likely to be at least 30 years before Reiriz is considered for parole, the lawyer said.
He cited Reiriz's work with troubled children at the hospital, as well as community service long before the murders.
Prosecutor Mark P. Cohen said that was not enough, and the judge agreed.
"In a city, your honor, that has around 300-plus murders a year, these rank as two of the most brutal we will ever see," Mr. Cohen said. "Most respectfully . . . there is no excuse."