Arundel woman pleads guilty to role in murder-for-hire plot

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Glen Burnie woman police say hired a hit man to kill her husband last fall pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

Cecelia M. Somers, formerly Cecelia Battaglia, will serve a maximum of 15 years in prison, according to the plea deal worked out yesterday between her lawyers and prosecutors. She is scheduled to be sentenced this month.

Somers declined to comment on the plea deal, as did Rocco J. Battaglia, her estranged husband who lives in Arbutus. But as Assistant State's Attorney J.R. Francomano read out the "statement of facts" - the summary of the case prosecutors would have presented at a trial - sympathetic friends and family members of Somers who packed the courtroom shook their heads and muttered under their breath.

According to prosecutors, an armed robbery of Battaglia on Nov. 26 last year was actually an attempted murder.

Battaglia told police that he was walking to his car from his Arbutus apartment about 5 a.m. when a man carrying a shotgun came up to him and demanded money. The man, who police later identified as Julius L. Jackson, struggled with Battaglia and then fled.

Battaglia "explained to Mr. Jackson that he didn't want to die because he had two young children," Francomano said yesterday.

According to prosecutors, police received a tip on Thanksgiving Day that Somers had hired a gunman to kill Battaglia and that an unsuccessful attempt had taken place. After investigation, police taped a telephone conversation in which they said Somers admitted hiring Jackson.

Jackson pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Francomano said that Somers wanted to kill Battaglia to collect his $200,000 life insurance. But defense attorney M. Gordon Taybeck pointed out yesterday that Battaglia's policy had lapsed by Nov. 26.

Somers will remain under house arrest until sentencing. If she does not appear at that hearing, she will automatically receive 30 years in prison, according to the plea deal.

"Nothing is more important than you being here," Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz told Somers before she walked out of the courtroom with her family.

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