Man given 30 years in 1978 killing Informant's testimony was key to conviction


William R. Issacs was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison for murdering 22-year-old Mark Schwandtner, whose killing in Gunpowder Falls went unsolved for 20 years until an FBI informant came forward to say Issacs confessed to him the day after the body was found.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl gave Issacs, 45, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder, noting that while no weapon, bloody clothing or fingerprints linked Issacs to the murder, he believed the testimony of FBI informant Charles Wilhelm.

"I could not take issue with the verdict from the jury," said Kahl. A jury convicted Issacs in November after Wilhelm, a convicted drug dealer and former friend of Issacs', testified that Issacs confessed in a Hampden bar to killing Schwandtner on June 9, 1978.

Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry Jr. said the Baltimore County states attorney's office will proceed with the prosecution of two other men charged with Schwandtner's killing, John S. Derry and Ronald G. Rogers Sr.

A Court of Special Appeals ruling Friday will allow a tape recording -- previously disqualified as evidence -- to be used against Derry.

The recording, in which Derry allegedly implicates himself in the killing during a conversation with Wilhelm, was thrown out as evidence last year by Kahl after police neglected to glue an identification number onto the tape recorder.

But the appeals court noted last week that prosecutors are not required to prove such evidence is properly registered to introduce it into evidence.

Yesterday, Issacs maintained his innocence, saying, "I don't know Mark Schwandtner and I don't know who killed him."

He also denied having a life of crime, saying he was unaware his career in bookmaking and loan sharking was illegal.

"I thought it was OK to do numbers. The state does it," he told the judge.

The judge ordered Issacs to serve his sentence after he completes a 2 1/2 -year sentence he is serving in federal prison for obstruction of justice, extortion and witness tampering.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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