Calling the convict before him a cancer on society, Howard County Circuit Judge James B. Dudley sentenced a 24-year-old Virginia man yesterday to life in prison plus 35 years for his part in a North Laurel drug robbery that ended in murder.
After Dudley announced his decision, Randall Bagley Jr. looked intently at his young wife and other relatives in the courtroom and closed his eyes as he rocked in his chair. The widow of the victim burst into sobs.
Earlier, in a speech that brought several people in the courtroom to tears, she had taken the stand and confronted her husband's killer.
A jury convicted Bagley in March of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Donald R. Mitchell, 43, of Columbia in December 1998. Bagley and two other men had planned to rob Donovan Bowen, a North Laurel cocaine dealer. Mitchell was at Bowen's apartment when the men arrived. He was shot and killed while sitting on a couch.
"This case actually began years ago, when Mr. Bagley found it acceptable to become associated with the sleazy world of drugs," Dudley told the court.
People such as Bagley "constitute a cancer in America," he added. "But this is the only cancer we have a cure for. I intend to impose the cure."
Bagley received life in prison for the murder and an additional 35 years for related charges. Two other men were charged in the killing. Kevin A. Lee, 21, of Severn entered a plea agreement; Patrick Sean Gardner, 17, of Laurel is scheduled for trial in October.
Dudley's sentence came after wrenching testimony from Iree Mitchell, the victim's widow. Mitchell talked about her husband and the impact of his death in an even voice.
"I tell you, it's been a very, very long year," she began. Mitchell described her husband, who had a degree in biochemistry, as a solid father and a mentor to "black young brothers" in the community.
"I still can't believe that the one thing we fought against took him out," she said. "You think it's never going to touch you, but I realize I know very little about the drug community around me."
The day he died, they had gone to a Montgomery County hospital to see about treatment for his drug problem, she said.
Addressing Bagley, a big man with short braids, a goatee and a large blue cross around his neck, she said, "I had my 2.5 children, my house, my husband, everything I thought made me secure. ... We meet for just a split second and you, you changed my life. ... You caused an emotional turmoil that you could not imagine in your wildest dreams."
She did not wish for Bagley's death, she told him. "But I wish for you to remember me every day of your life," she said, adding that she felt as if he had shot her, too, that December day. "I would take limbs from you so that you would know every day something's missing."
Finally, she congratulated Bagley for recently earning his GED: "I say to you: Find your peace. Rehabilitate yourself. Maybe you can do something for your children."
Bagley's attorney, Joseph Murtha, had asked the court for a life sentence without additional time, to give his client some hope of being released.
Murtha, who argued at trial that Gardner fired the gun that killed Mitchell, said his client plans to appeal.