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Glen Burnie man pleads guilty in killing young software whiz; judge finds him not criminally responsible

The Glen Burnie man who gunned down a promising software engineer in the stairwell of their apartment building last year was insane at the time and will be turned over to the custody of the state health department, an Anne Arundel County judge ruled during a swift hearing Tuesday that frustrated prosecutors and the victim’s family.

In less than an hour, Circuit Judge Michael Wachs brought to a conclusion the court proceedings of the man responsible for fatally shooting 22-year-old Tyrique Hudson.

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James Allan Verombeck, 54, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Tuesday and maintained he was insane when he killed his neighbor. Wachs convicted Verombeck before determining that he was not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. Wachs committed Verombeck indefinitely to a psychiatric facility operated by the Maryland Department of Health.

Dozens of friends and family members traveled from North Carolina to pack the Annapolis courthouse, donning T-shirts and buttons with Hudson’s picture and the words “Justice for Tyrique.” They said the hearing provided few answers.

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“It’s not the justice I was looking for,” said Tonya Burch, Hudson’s mother.

The seemingly random fatal shooting of Hudson on April 15, 2019, shocked the community, devastated his family and raised questions about how Verombeck, a disgruntled maintenance worker, slipped through the cracks. Hudson died that morning in a dimly lit corridor of the Colonial Square Apartments, where he lived above Verombeck.

Verombeck fired a shotgun into Hudson’s chest and barricaded himself inside his second-floor apartment. After negotiation attempts failed, Anne Arundel County police Special Operations Response Team had to blast through the walls of an adjacent apartment to reach Verombeck.

Deputy State’s Attorney Brian Marsh said Thursday that police found Verombeck lying on the floor next to a mattress. Officers described him as “deranged" and said he did not comply with their commands. They took Verombeck to Baltimore Washington Medical Center and arrested him when he was discharged. Marsh said Verombeck "told police that the victim took his life, liberty and pursuit of justice.”

Verombeck was later indicted on charges of first-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and a host of firearms offenses. After his guilty plea for the murder, prosecutors dropped the remainder of the counts.

Six months after the indictment, Verombeck pleaded insanity. In Maryland, it’s up to the defendant and their attorneys to prove that at the time of the crime they, because of a mental disorder, could not understand what they did was wrong or could not stop themselves. The legal standard focuses on the moment in time.

Despite pleading not criminally responsible (Maryland’s version of the insanity defense), Verombeck maintained he was not guilty. Wachs ordered he be admitted to the Maryland Department of Health so doctors could evaluate his competency to stand trial — whether he could understand basic legal proceedings — and whether he was sane at the time of the alleged murder.

Dr. Adam Brown, a forensic psychiatrist with the health department, evaluated Verombeck. He reviewed medical records, evidence and interviewed collateral sources. In an approximately 115-page report, Brown said he thought Verombeck was competent but insane at the time of the murder. Prosecutors said Brown diagnosed Verombeck with schizoaffective disorder.

Marsh said that Brown believed that Verombeck could understand what he did was wrong, but couldn’t stop himself from doing it because of his delusions. Verombeck believed that Hudson was spying on him from his upstairs apartment and thought he heard Hudson’s footsteps following above, Marsh said.

Prosecutors intended to call Brown as a witness to explain the findings of his report — with no objections from Verombeck’s defense attorneys — but Wachs did not allow it, saying the report sufficed. He, defense attorneys and prosecutors described the report as among the most thorough they’d seen. It was enough for prosecutors not to challenge Verombeck’s insanity defense.

Hudson’s family was devastated not to learn more about how the doctor arrived at his conclusions. Prosecutors, who answered questions and complaints from Hudson’s loved ones in a tense meeting outside of the courtroom, were disappointed with Wachs' ruling on the doctor’s testimony.

“I’m disappointed that the court didn’t take the testimony of the doctor,” State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess told The Capital after court. “The community deserved to hear the basis of the doctor’s opinion that Verombeck was mentally ill at the time he murdered Tyrique Hudson. (Prosecutors) sought to make this hearing transparent so that everyone could understand the proceedings.”

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Without the doctor’s testimony, Leitess said it was difficult to describe Verombeck’s condition. He held a job and paid rent. But in off hours, she said, “when he was home alone he was paranoid, he was psychotic, he was delusional and he imagined that (Hudson) was plotting against him.”

Wachs also denied a Capital reporter’s request to review the report, which was introduced as en exhibit of evidence in open court. It was filed as a joint exhibit and neither the judge, the prosecutors or the defense attorneys asked for the record to be placed under seal. Wachs said it was confidential in nature, declining to allow the press or public to see it. The judge could not be reached for comment. In court, he offered condolences to the family.

“I wish there were words that I could share with Ms. Burch and the family and friends of Tyrique Hudson to make this any easier but I know that there are not... He was bright and full of light and beautiful," Wachs said. “This is just a senseless tragedy. There’s no explanation and no reason, which makes it all the more difficult.”

Burch was not convinced about the outcome. She watched as Verombeck clearly answered questions from Wachs before entering his plea. How could that same man have been insane for the murder of her son? she wondered.

“I wanted him to get life in prison... I just feel like he’s not mental,” Burch said after court.

Leitess said he’s likely to be treated at Clifton T Perkins Hospital Center, the state’s maximum security psychiatric facility. And according to state law, his commitment is indefinite. In order to be released, a doctor would have to decide the patient didn’t need anymore treatment, that the person didn’t pose a risk to the public. A court would have a say on the release. Leitess said prosecutors would push back on any attempts to release him.

“This was a tragic case but we believe it was a fair and just outcome with the not criminally responsible finding," Tiffany Holley, one of Verombeck’s defense attorneys, said after court. “... hopefully he will get the help and treatment that he deserves going forward with this outcome.”

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She said Verombeck feels bad about what happened and that, collectively, the defense hopes Hudson’s family members “find peace.”

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While the contents of the doctor’s report have not been made public, there were hints of mental health issues for Verombeck early on.

At a bail review hearing shortly after charges were filed, an employee with pretrial services said he suffered schizophrenia. Months later, in legal pleadings where his attorneys argued some of his statements to detectives should be barred from trial, they referenced his mental health.

“He exhibits extreme paranoia, persecutory thoughts and makes several grandiose statements. He has difficulty formulating rational answers to simple questions,” Holley and Denis O’Connell, both public defenders in Anne Arundel, wrote.

As Verombeck’s case progressed through the courts, information about his past came to light.

Hudson had applied for a peace order in 2019 after Verombeck gave him a throat-slitting gesture the first time they met. Judge Devy Patterson, who has since resigned while serving a suspension, denied the request for court protection, saying harassment and stalking required a pattern of behavior.

Almost exactly two months later, “TJ” as he was known to most, was shot dead.

Neighbors at the apartment building had learned to keep their distance from Verombeck, an Anne Arundel County Public Schools maintenance worker. So too had his former wife, who told The Capital their tumultuous relationship left her scared for her life. She said he bragged about scaring people with a shotgun before.

In 1996, he stormed a southern Maryland hospital with a sawed-off shotgun and a grudge, apparently unsatisfied with the care he got.

Verombeck was committed to Clifton Perkins for treatment before being discharged. He was charged and pleaded guilty to possession of an illegal shotgun, a conviction that barred him from legally owning firearms in the future. Prosecutors said after court Tuesday they do not know how Verombeck acquired the shotgun used during Hudson’s murder.

Hudson’s family remembers his as a brilliant, curious mind who loved church. He graduated college early and caught the eye of defense contractor Northrup Grumman, which hired Hudson right out of college. His supervisor said he was a “promising engineer.”

Hudson’s father and cousins drove up to Maryland about a month after his death. They collected the belongings of a young man gone too soon. In silence, they packed his marvel comic gear and sports paraphernalia into a U-Haul van. They vacuumed the drywall dust caused by the blast one floor below and walked by their son’s alleged killer’s apartment on the way out.

All the while, they hoped for justice.

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