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Killer given life in prison without parole Carlton was convicted of felony murder of Christmas tree dealer


A Baltimore County judge yesterday sentenced David Lawrence Carlton to life in prison without parole for the 1994 NTC murder of a Perry Hall Christmas tree dealer.

A jury found Carlton, 28, guilty Sept. 13 of felony murder in the slaying of Paul Robert Zinkhan, 53, who was found dead from a blow to the head at Christmas time. Detectives found two of Mr. Zinkhan's pockets turned out, indicating an apparent robbery.

Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Mickey J. Norman called the sentence "appropriate," but Assistant Public Defender Sally Chester, who represented Carlton, said it was excessive.

"I think life would have been more than sufficient," she said, adding that she had asked Circuit Judge J. William Hinkel to consider a life sentence with all but an unspecified number of years suspended.

Judge Hinkel said he was convinced that both Carlton and co-defendant Steven Lee Ussel played a role in the Dec. 23 death of Mr. Zinkhan, who lived in a trailer on the lot of A to Z Greenery, where he sold trees, in the 9700 block of Belair Road.

Court records show that Ussel, whose last known address was in the 1200 block of Bridge Crossing Road in Essex, told witnesses he planned to rob Mr. Zinkhan to move to Florida.

Records also show that Ussel told someone he was going to have Carlton, whose last known address was in the 1900 block of Madison Road in Dundalk, "do all of his dirty work."

The men were arrested in a Jacksonville Beach, Fla., phone booth days after the murder.

Ussel, 22, has been held without bail at the county detention center. He pleaded guilty to murder and robbery, and will be sentenced Friday, Mr. Norman said, adding that the state is seeking a sentence of life without parole.

Ussel had previously been charged with trespassing, harassment, battery and malicious destruction of property; Carlton had a "minimal criminal record," Ms. Chester said.

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