A Baltimore City Circuit judge sentenced one of Baltimore’s youngest homicide suspects to life in prison Tuesday for the rape and murder of an 83-year-old woman in 2018.
Judge Jennifer B. Schiffer called the circumstances of Dorothy Mae Neal’s killing “heartbreaking” and said the nature of the crime “demands punishment,” despite Tyrone Harvin’s age at the time of the crime. He was 14 years old.
Schiffer requested that Harvin, now 18 years old, be sent to the youth offender program at the Patuxent Institution.
Harvin’s legal team asked the judge to send him to a juvenile sex offender program where they argued he could receive better clinical treatment. His attorneys declined to comment following the hearing.
A jury convicted Harvin in June of raping and murdering Neal, who was found beaten inside her Bridgeview-Greenlawn apartment in 2018 after police were called for a wellness check. Police found used condoms and a lamp prosecutors say was the murder weapon inside Neal’s home. The medical examiner’s office said Neal died from blunt-force trauma and that she was sexually assaulted.
At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, prosecutor Elizabeth Stock said life in prison would be appropriate because of the “excessive level of harm” done to Neal, because she said Harvin acted alone, without group influences, and because of subsequent rule violations while he was in custody.
Rita Pickett, a cousin of Neal’s, spoke at the sentencing by Zoom and asked for “justice” following the act of violence. She noted Neal was old enough to be Harvin’s grandmother or great-grandmother.
Neal lived through the civil rights era and Jim Crow laws, Pickett said, only to have her life shortened by an “act of violence” from someone she trusted.
[ Baltimore teen accused of rape and murder of 83-year-old stands trial four years later ]
Harvin’s attorney, Deborah St. Jean, however, argued that the state hadn’t proved Harvin acted alone, and pointed to some conflicting DNA evidence from the crime scene.
St. Jean said Tuesday that neuropsychological and psychosocial evaluations had found Harvin would benefit from clinical treatment. She said there had been “missed opportunities” for intervention during Harvin’s previous interactions with the juvenile justice system.
The evaluations had found Harvin was “years” behind his peers’ development and that, without treatment, “no good can come of that.”
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Harvin appeared at court in a yellow jumpsuit and shackles. He declined to speak on his own behalf.
Then-State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said at a news conference following June’s guilty verdict that there is “no winner in this case,” noting it showed the “dire” importance of reaching young people early.
“Two people have lost their freedom,” Mosby said, “one at the dawn of their life and one at the sunset of theirs.”
From the start of 2022 through June 30, the most recent data available, 439 youths in Maryland under the age of 18 were charged as adults, according to data published by the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services. Of those, 93.6% were boys and 81.1% were Black, and 41 were charged with first-degree murder.
Schiffer, the judge, said Tuesday that evidence suggested Harvin’s upbringing was “unimaginably traumatic” and that his brain was not fully developed at the time of the 2018 crimes.
But she noted he had a relevant criminal history and called the attack on Neal “as brutal as it was prolonged.” Schiffer said Harvin left her for dead and there was no way to know how long she was alone in her home before police arrived.
In sentencing Harvin to life, Schiffer said she retained the power to modify his sentence and would weigh how he does in a few years.