A 17-year-old Baltimore youth was sentenced to 25 years yesterday for his role as a lookout in a Christmastime robbery and murder at a Hunt Valley Burger King.
Breon Carla English pleaded guilty to felony murder last May. He was the fourth and final city teen-ager sentenced by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Alexander Wright Jr. in connection with the murder Dec. 23, 2000, of James Stambaugh Jr., a manager at the restaurant.
Stambaugh, 21, was bound with duct tape, stabbed and beaten to death after he recognized one of the assailants.
Wright sentenced English to life, with all but 25 years suspended. Under the terms of the sentence, the governor would have to approve any recommendation by parole officials for English's release. Wright recommended that English serve his sentence at Patuxent Institute, a state facility in Jessup that rehabilitates inmates.
English apologized for the killing before being sentenced.
"I know whatever I say will not bring him back, but I would if I could," English told Stambaugh's father, grandparents and uncle.
But James Stambaugh Sr. told Wright that he visits his son's grave every day and that the murder has left him with no reason to live.
"I'm going into his bedroom every night and laying on his bed and crying my eyes out," said Stambaugh, 41. "They took Jimmie's life, but they took my life as well."
Stambaugh said after the hearing that he thought the sentence was too light.
"He had just as much gall as the rest of them to go out to that Burger King that night for the robbery," he said.
But Wright said that he had to give English credit for admitting his role as a lookout, for showing remorse and for his "tremendously consistent" testimony against co-defendants Courtney Bryant, Andre Lawson and William Jones.
"What Mr. English has brought is some certainty to this matter," Wright said.
Assistant State's Attorneys Mickey Norman and Marsha Russell agreed not to seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in exchange for English's testimony.
Norman said he considered the sentence reasonable given English's cooperation.
"Judge Wright obviously gave this case a lot of thought," Norman said.
A. Dwight Pettit, English's lawyer, said his client took risks in testifying for the state. He was the target of death threats from inmates at the Baltimore County Detention Center after he posted a $60,000 bond and was released to await trial, Pettit said.
"Not only was Mr. English man enough to take that stand and testify, but he took it knowing that his life was on the line," Pettit told Wright.
No one was charged with making the threats, Pettit said, adding: "It was never clear where they came from."
Bryant, 19, who was described by prosecutors as the ringleader, was sentenced to death by Wright on Feb. 4. Testimony showed that Bryant had worked at the restaurant months before the slaying and that he killed Stambaugh after the manager recognized him.
Lawson, who was 17 at the time of the killing, was convicted by a jury of felony murder. Wright sentenced him this month to life without parole.
Jones, who also had worked at the Burger King, was convicted by another jury of conspiracy to commit robbery after testimony showed that he let the others into the restaurant after closing. He was given a 10-year sentence.