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Man receives life sentence for killing tow truck driver in West Baltimore

For four years, Michael Joyce wondered who killed his 23-year-old son Andrew in West Baltimore. The young tow truck driver had been in the middle of hooking up a car for a stranded woman, when an unknown man shot him in the chest. The case went cold.

On Thursday, Joyce got to face the man a Baltimore jury convicted of the 2010 shooting as Prince Rogers, 36, was sentenced to life plus five years in prison.

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Joyce told Circuit Court Judge Paul Smith that he found it an "epic violation of trust and humanity" that 1,810 days passed without Rogers coming forward. Making matters worse, Rogers himself had worked for more than a decade as a tow truck driver, knowing the "routing of towing and … the vulnerabilities every driver encounters," Joyce told Smith.

Rogers maintains his innocence. After defense attorney Erica White said Rogers did not want to address the court, the attorney and client haggled for several moments before Rogers rose and turned to face the family.

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"I would like to admit I did not have anything to do with this case," he said, his voice quavering and hands clasped behind his back. "I did not kill Andrew Joyce. I did not."

Rogers was arrested and charged in October 2014. The break for detectives was when one of Rogers' relatives was arrested, and offered up to investigators that his cousin had confessed his involvement in a murder. Detectives then re-interviewed a witness to the shooting, showing a photo lineup from which Rogers was picked out.

The relative and his wife, who had both conveyed Rogers' confession to detectives, both recanted before trial. White said one of them denied having spoken to detectives at all, despite the presence of a taped statement he provided.

Andy Joyce was a recovering drug addict at the time of his death whose life had turned a corner, his father told Smith. He was the youngest of four boys born and raised in Howard County. His older twin brothers came down with Batten Disease, a rare illness with no cure that caused them to first lose their sight, then become unable to move and "completely incapacitated," Michael Joyce said.

Andy was a Boy Scout and talented cello player who received good grades, but that changed after one of the twins, Joe, died. He went into a deep depression, got involved in drugs and alcohol, and stopped going to school.

He was "in a perpetual state of ups and downs, mostly downs, with his drinking and self-medicating," Michael Joyce said.

He spent two years in a program in Utah, earning a high school degree and becoming an Eagle Scout. While he was away, the other twin, Ian, died. But Andy was now in a better position to cope and succeed and returned home, his father said.

Andy was working as a tow truck driver and was the father of a young child when he drove to the 500 block of N. Mosher St. in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2010 to tow a vehicle for a mother and her small child. A witness saw Joyce and a man talking, then saw Joyce reach into his vehicle. The man pulled a handgun and fired once. Joyce was found slumped across the cabin of the vehicle and pronounced dead on the scene.

Prosecutors charged Rogers with attempted robbery, operating on a theory that the shooting may have been motivated by a robbery. The jury found Rogers not guilty of that count, but still found that Rogers had committed a premeditated murder.

White, his attorney, argued Thursday that Rogers should receive no prison time because he was innocent. "It does not serve society at all to put an innocent man in jail," she told Smith.

But Smith said he could not overrule the jury and did not find Rogers had received an unfair trial. He acknowledged that the case was "an instance in which we may never know why Andrew Joyce was killed."

Michael Joyce said after the hearing that he was unmoved by Rogers' appeal to the family in court.

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"The family sat down before trial, and we agreed that we did not want a conviction for the sake of a conviction," he said. "I'm absolutely convinced that this man did it, and the fact that he won't admit it makes it all the more despicable."

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