CHESTERTOWN - In a case that has drawn national attention, a 24-year-old white man was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder yesterday in the Dec. 4 shotgun slaying of an elderly black woman as she and two companions returned to their rural Kent County neighborhood from a Christmas shopping trip.
David W. Starkey Jr. - who with his 20-year-old brother initially was charged with committing a hate crime in the death of Germaine Porcea Clarkston, 73 - faces a sentence of life without parole.
Prosecutors contended that the brothers targeted the women because of their race. But hate-crime charges were thrown out last week by Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Price before a jury found the brother, Daniel R. Starkey, guilty of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Hate-crime charges against David Starkey were dropped Monday.
Sentencing for the brothers is scheduled for Aug. 11.
Yesterday, David Starkey, a burly 6-foot-1-inch, 260-pound former Marine sharpshooter, showed no emotion, standing with his hands folded in front of him as guilty verdicts were read in the crowded second-floor courtroom.
His mother, Elizabeth Starkey, who stood with her husband, David, and 18-year-old son Wayne, also remained calm during the verdict.
After the verdict was read, many of the 40 or so friends and supporters of the Clarkston family who attended the three-day trial voiced their support for the outcome.
Linwood Clarkston Jr., who lived next door to his mother in the isolated African-American community of Georgetown outside the county seat of Chestertown, said: "Justice has been served, but it doesn't really solve our problem. You don't know who this lady was. She was the mainsail of this family, and we have been listing in the waters. It's going to take a long time for us to get over it."
Roberta Roper, executive director of the Stephanie Roper Committee, the state's largest victim's advocacy organization, sat with the Clarkston family throughout yesterday's proceedings.
Douglas Jones, president of the Kent County NAACP, was present for much of the three-day trial.
A jury of nine men and three women deliberated for more than nine hours after Price spent nearly an hour outlining possible verdicts and the legal implications of each charge in the complex case.
Police say the brothers, who grew up in the small Kent County town of Millington, near the Delaware border, stalked Clarkston, her 68-year-old cousin Meriam Spriggs and Spriggs' daughter, Michelle Wilson, 38
Police say the men, in Daniel Starkey's Chevrolet pickup truck, followed the three women for more than 20 miles after a near-accident with Clarkston's car, which was being driven by Wilson.
As the women turned onto their dark country lane, investigators say Daniel Starkey passed Clarkston's 1988 Plymouth Horizon, and David Starkey fired both barrels of his 12-gauge shotgun into the car.
Wilson was injured by a piece of metal that splintered as one slug passed through the car.
Clarkston, wounded in the hip, suffered extensive internal injuries and died two days later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Prosecutor Robert H. Strong Jr. said that David Starkey was a racist who bragged to a friend in a cellular phone call within minutes of the shooting that he was entitled to a "13" tattoo, supposedly to be won by committing a racial crime.
Defense attorney Thomas G. Ross argued that prosecutors never proved that race was a factor in Clarkston's death. Starkey told police, and wrote in a confession that took the form of a letter of apology to the dead woman's family, that he meant only to scare the women.
The shooting, Ross said, was unintentional, caused by a faulty trigger which caused the weapon to fire both barrels at once. Ross reminded jurors that he had characterized the Starkey brothers, as "young and dumb," early in the trial. "It was purely accidental; he didn't mean to do anything but point the gun out the truck window," Ross said in his final argument yesterday, urging jurors to rule the shooting a case of involuntary manslaughter.
Members of the Starkey family refused to comment after verdict, as did Ross, the defense attorney.