A 25-year-old medical student charged with fatally shooting a stranger at an Owings Mills movie theater in June was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder but found not criminally responsible for the killing because of a mental illness.
Doctors who evaluated Mujtaba R. Jabbar for the state before the murder trial scheduled to begin yesterday diagnosed the defendant with schizophrenia and found that the disorder had left him unable to conform his behavior to the law, county prosecutor Rachel Cogen said.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger ordered that Jabbar be committed to a state psychiatric facility.
"I believe he's going to be there for an extremely long time, if not the rest of his life," Cogen said after the hearing.
She said that prosecutors were prepared to seek the maximum sentence - life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jabbar, a Mount Hebron High and Loyola College graduate before enrolling in medical school in the Caribbean, was found guilty of the fatal shooting of Paul Schrum, 62, a medical supplies salesman from Pikesville.
Defense attorney Donald Daneman read a letter of condolence in court from the Jabbar family to Schrum's widow, Rona, and friends and relatives who filled the Towson courtroom.
"Having Mujtaba away from home, detained in prison, has marred our lives in an irreconcilable manner. Each and every night we pray that he may be forgiven for his tragic act and that he might recover from his woeful ailment," the lawyer read. "Yet this is only a fraction of the pain you and your family must endure."
Schrum, a science fiction fan, had gone to the Loews Valley Center 9 movie theater on June 15 for a Thursday-night showing of X-Men 3: The Last Stand.
With only five other people in the theater, Schrum chose a seat in the back, Cogen told the judge. Jabbar sat a row behind Schrum, Cogen said.
After about a half-hour, Jabbar pulled out a .357-caliber revolver, Cogen said. He fired once to the right side of Schrum's head, ordered everyone in the movie theater to get down and then fired three more bullets, into Schrum's head, arm and chest.
Jabbar walked to the lobby, placed his gun on the counter and told a manager to call 911 because he had just killed someone, Cogen said. He sat down and waited for police to arrive.
Asked by a police officer who soon arrived what had happened, Jabbar responded, "I killed someone because I was mad," the prosecutor said. Asked to elaborate, the defendant told police he was mad "just because of the way things are going in my life."
He told homicide detectives that he bought the gun a year and a half earlier and had been thinking of killing someone for three months, Cogen said.
Two days after the shooting, Gul A. Jabbar, the defendant's sister, indicated in a written statement that her family had tried to get her brother into treatment for his mental illness but that he refused. Because doctors said he wasn't a threat to himself or others, the family couldn't force him to get help, she said at the time.
Mujtaba Jabbar was spending the summer with his family in their affluent Baltimore County neighborhood, Anton North.
Schrum had two daughters and two grandchildren.
In a letter that the judge reviewed yesterday in court, Norman M. Schrum, who works at Northwest Ice Rink in Mount Washington, recalled speaking with his younger brother on the day he died.
"He called me to ask what I thought about a brand of ice skates he intended to purchase," Norman Schrum wrote of his sibling, who had been skating for 50 years. "I told him he had found a good deal and to buy them. He bought those skates that day but never got a chance to use them."