Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Reisterstown man gets 100 years in killing of 2

The Baltimore Sun

A 20-year-old Reisterstown man with no previous criminal record was sentenced yesterday to 100 years in prison for the killings of a teenager and his uncle in what authorities described as a botched attempt to steal drugs and money from the victims' apartment.

Karl Maurice "Six" Sowers had interrupted his trial in March, deciding on the third day of testimony to enter a guilty plea to first-degree murder. In exchange, prosecutors withdrew the notice of their intention to seek a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sowers attempted yesterday to withdraw that guilty plea and get a new trial, writing in a request to Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh that he was forced to accept the plea agreement.

The judge was unmoved.

"I think he pleaded guilty because a co-defendant fingered him and he saw another in the doorway waiting to do the same," Cavanaugh said of the two men who participated in the deadly robbery on Oct. 1, 2005, and who had agreed to testify against Sowers at trial.

Because Sowers entered an Alford plea, he did not admit guilt in the killings but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of murder.

The announcement of the 100-year sentence capped an emotional hearing that included an apology from another defendant, Kion Jerran Coulter, who helped plan the robbery, and a plea from Sowers' grandmother to show mercy on a young man who she said had never been in any trouble growing up.

When the grandmother mentioned to the judge that people who make mistakes are often granted second chances, Cavanaugh cut her off.

"With all due respect, ma'am, a mistake is when you miscount your change, not when you murder two people," the judge said.

Sowers was one of six people convicted in the fatal shootings of 17-year-old Dante Thacker and his 35-year-old uncle, Howard "Doddie" Thacker Jr., in an apartment on Village Mill Court in Owings Mills.

The six men and one other met near Howard Thacker's apartment on the night of the planned robbery in dark clothing with guns and a box of latex gloves, according to court documents. The group intended to wait for Dante Thacker to leave the apartment and then "rush" him as if they were part of a police raid to steal the teenager's money, drugs and other property, court documents indicate.

Two of the men decided to opt out the robbery about 12:30 a.m., and the remaining five waited in the dark behind a hill with shirts or bandanas covering their faces, according to court documents.

The men rushed Dante Thacker as he left the apartment and forced their way inside. They handcuffed Howard Thacker, who tried to run for the front door. Just before reaching the apartment's entrance, Howard Thacker was shot in the head by one of the robbers, Hakim Jordan-El, according to court records.

Sowers then shot Dante Thacker in the chest, according to court records.

Prosecutor Allan J. Webster told the judge at Sowers' sentencing yesterday that the defendant had "acted like an animal" on the night of the killings, even urinating on his own hands to remove any gunshot residue that might have been left by firing his .22-caliber revolver.

"I'm going to ask the court to show the defendant the mercy that he showed Dante Thacker- which is none," the prosecutor said. He added that while everyone involved in the attempted robbery that night was a criminal, Sowers was "the worst of them."

Friends and relatives of the Thacker family wore white T-shirts yesterday with photographs of the two victims and wept as two family members told the judge of the sadness and anger that has sent several of them into counseling.

Cavanaugh sentenced Sowers to life in prison, suspending all but 100 years of the term.

Sentencing Coulter - who helped plan the robbery but did not fire a weapon - Cavanaugh imposed another life sentence, suspending all but 30 years of the prison term.

Others involved in the robbery and shootings were sentenced previously.

Brian M. Bartee, 20, was sentenced to life in prison with all but 20 years suspended. Marcus D. Pettiford, 21, was sentenced to life in prison with all but 30 years suspended. And Christopher Giles, 19, who intended to participate in the robbery but left early, was sentenced to five years in prison.

The other shooter, Jordan-El, 22, who pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a prison term of no more than 50 years, is to be sentenced this month.


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