Edward Day, an eccentric Vietnam veteran who polarized his West Baltimore neighborhood with the fatal shooting in 2002 of a teenage boy trying to steal a bicycle from his yard, was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison during an emotionally charged hearing that left both sides in tears.
The visibly upset Day looked dejected as officers handcuffed him in city Circuit Court and family members and neighbors surrounded him.
Equally distraught was Marnice Cooper, 32, mother of 15-year-old David Stewart, as she stood with her two daughters a few feet away. "Six years is not enough," said Cooper, who choked back sobs during her testimony. "He needs to be murdered, too."
The sentence imposed by Circuit Judge John M. Glynn gives Day credit for three months already served in jail, as well as the two years and two months he has been on home detention.
Day, 57, could have received a maximum of eight years in prison after he was convicted of manslaughter in August. Prosecutor Wesley Adams asked Glynn for the maximum sentence, arguing that the single shot he fired at Stewart "wasn't a manslaughter" but "an intentional act" that Day deliberately and repeatedly lied about to cover up his impulsive behavior provoked by anger. "He executed a 15-year-old boy for stealing a bike, for trying to steal a bike," Adams said.
Day's lawyer, Kenneth W. Ravenell, argued for a sentence that would include no jail time, a plea repeated by a half-dozen family members and neighbors. They described Day as a gentle, benevolent man who tended to his dying mother, tidied the lawns of neighbors and appeared withdrawn and traumatized after returning from service in the Vietnam War.
But after hearing more than 90 minutes of arguments, Glynn said he did not feel comfortable imposing a sentence of home detention for a homicide.
Acknowledging he faced a tough task that wouldn't satisfy either side, Glynn imposed the six-year term with three years probation. But he said if the two sides could come up with an alternative plan in the next 90 days, he would reconsider.
Afterward, Adams said he wouldn't consider another punishment, saying he did not agree with the sentence and did not think it was fair that Day potentially could be free by July, when he might be eligible for parole.
Ravenell said Day's family hopes Glynn might approve an alternative to incarceration, such as placement in a halfway house. "We will be working diligently to present such a program to the court as early as next week," he said.
The sentence capped a tumultuous 2 1/2 years that began in July 2002 when Stewart was riding his bicycle with a friend in the alley behind Day's rowhouse in the 2300 block of Harlem Ave. Stewart noticed a red 10-speed bike in Day's yard, not unusual for the man known as "Mr. Fix-it" in the neighborhood.
As the teen walked into Day's back yard and tried to steal the bike, Day came out of his house and fired a 12-gauge shotgun, striking Stewart in the back, according to prosecutors who said the man was fed up after frequent robberies by youths.
After the shooting
Prosecutors and police said Day then put the gun back in his bedroom, walked past the dying teenager and rode his bike to a pool hall. Day and Ravenell said that Day accidentally discharged the gun after slipping on the grass and didn't realize he had shot the boy.
At yesterday's hearing, psychiatrists - one for the state, the other for the defense - discussed Day's mental status.
Dr. John Henderson, who conducted an evaluation for the state, said he found no evidence Day suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can afflict war veterans. Day served in Vietnam for several years.
Dr. Neil Blumberg, who evaluated Day for the defense, testified that he found Day suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, describing him as a paranoid, withdrawn man whose behavior included dressing like a bum to avoid getting robbed, wearing heavy clothing on hot days and allowing his fingernails and toenails to grow long. Blumberg said Day's reaction in the shooting could have been caused by the disorder.
During sentencing, Day frequently teared up, including during his testimony and when his sister, Cynthia Day, spoke of the recent death of their mother.
Speaking in a soft voice, tears steaming down his face, Day said he'd "been thinking about this for the last two years, and I don't know why it happened."
"I had no intention of shooting," he said. "I would never hurt anybody that way."
Equally quiet was Cooper, the teen's mother.
"My son was sweet, he was a good child," she said, pausing to wipe the tears off her face.
"Every day I wake up and I know that my son is not here. There's nothing that can express how I feel every day."