It has been more than a year since a teenage gang member killed Derald Howard Guess, but the victim's mother still doesn't know her son is gone.
She suffered a stroke several years ago and lives in a nursing home. Guess often visited her, in between raising nine children and ministering to troubled youth. Since Guess' death, however, the family has made excuses to his mother about his absence, believing it would be too painful, too stunning to tell her that he was killed in a senseless gang initiation rite.
Family members told of the mother's situation during a victim impact statement yesterday, moments before Wayne Lavon Bond Jr. was sentenced to life plus 60 years in prison by a Harford County Circuit Court judge. The 18-year-old, described by prosecutors as the gunman in the December 2004 killing, was convicted in April.
Guess' wife and son said the sentence puts them one more step away from having to relive the details of a death that cast a spotlight on Harford's budding gang problem. But they will never forget his legacy, they said.
Speaking before the court, 21-year-old Shamaar Guess, the eldest of Guess' children, said the family is committed to carrying on the ministerial and outreach efforts his father had begun.
"We've been motivated to do what he was trying to do, to get our church started and make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else," Shamaar Guess said. "We're trying to touch as many lives as possible."
Prosecutors said Bond was an uncontrollable youth whose frequent brushes with the law did nothing to temper his disrespect of authority and inability to grasp the consequences of his actions.
On Dec. 8, 2004, Bond and Darrell Levon Miller, 21, called for a cab to a cul de sac in the Harford Square neighborhood. Guess, a driver for United Sedan Service, was dispatched to pick them up. Shortly after entering the cab, Bond shot Guess in the temple as part of his initiation into the Bloods gang. Miller pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for testimony against Bond and will be sentenced next week.
"There was no reason in the world to shoot that man," said Assistant State's Attorney Diana A. Brooks. "Only a person who is cold-blooded, with no sympathy or empathy for anyone would do that."
Bond's attorneys, aware that a life sentence was likely, argued that he was susceptible to peer pressure and had pent-up anger that could, in time, be resolved.
Harford Circuit Court Judge Thomas E. Marshall said he would give Bond the possibility for parole because of his age and potential for change. He told Bond that he deserved worse, however.
"You deserve it," Marshall said of life without parole. "I see no remorse whatsoever. This act and your record merit life without parole."
Throughout the trial and his sentencing, Bond showed no emotion but watched attentively as others spoke about him. He declined to apologize or make a statement yesterday.
His mother embraced Guess' family members as she entered the courtroom and told Marshall, " I'm sorry."
Outside the courtroom, Guess' widow said she was disappointed that Bond did not show remorse for the killing, but said the relationship she had forged with Bond's mother was comforting.
Michelle Guess, 41, who remarried in December, said she planned to rededicate herself to working on anti-gang initiatives. Last spring, she testified on Capitol Hill and in Annapolis to promote gang deterrence bills.
"It's time for parents to fight back and stand up," she said.