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Teen gets 25 years in beating death

The Baltimore Sun

An 18-year-old man was sentenced to 25 years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the beating death of a man sleeping on a bench in West Baltimore.

Donavan Troy White of Edenton, N.C., was caught on a police surveillance camera at Calhoun and Cumberland streets bashing Joel Bradley, 39, over the head with a 3-foot-long tree branch in October 2006.

White then rifled through Bradley's pockets and left him bleeding on the ground.

White, who committed the attack on his 17th birthday, apologized to the victim's family yesterday in court, saying he did not intend to kill Bradley, according to prosecutors. In a rarity for a city murder case, members of White's family were allowed to speak on his behalf at the emotional, one-hour hearing.

About a half-dozen members of the victim's family also were in court. Jerome Bradley described his younger brother as a good man, prosecutors said.

The night of the attack, cameras caught White stealing Bradley's cell phone. A review of the phone's call records led detectives to White's sister. Detectives showed the video to the victim's sister, who told them she thought the attacker fit the description of her brother after she recognized the jacket he wore.

Assistant State's Attorney Terry Shaffer said White told detectives in his confession that he attacked Bradley because he mistakenly thought Bradley had stolen his compact disc player.

White told detectives that his mother had given him the CD player shortly before she died years ago, and that it had sentimental value.

"There is nothing to suggest that [Bradley] had the CD player," Shaffer said.

Bradley, after having a few drinks with friends earlier in the evening, was resting on the bench when he was hit with the branch, which prosecutors described as bigger than something that would burn in a fireplace.

White, who had no juvenile criminal history in Maryland, had recently moved from North Carolina and was living in a group home in Baltimore. He returned to North Carolina after the attack and was arrested a month later.

Baltimore Circuit Judge W. Michel Pierson sentenced White to life in prison with all but 25 years suspended.

The Police Department has more than 300 surveillance cameras, positioned mainly in the city's high-crime areas.

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