Perkins patient sentenced to life without parole in killing of fellow patient

A patient at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a fellow patient at the state psychiatric facility, a spokesman for the Howard County prosecutor's office said.

El Soudani El-Wahhabi had been convicted in February of first-degree murder in the 2010 strangulation death of Susan Sachs, slain in her room. It was the first of three homicides at the hospital to occur within 14 months, leading to criticism and charges in operation of the facility. El-Wahhabi had told investigators that he used a shoelace to strangle her, according to prosecutors. His first trial ended in a mistrial.

Howard County Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. McCrone imposed the sentence, saying it would protect women from El-Wahhabi, after prosecutors called him a "most dangerous predator of women," noted his past includes being found not criminally responsible in the killing of a woman, and asked that he not be released from prison, according T. Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the State's Attorney's Office.

The defense had sought to a life sentence, but with part of it suspended, noting that El-Wahhabi struggled with mental health issues throughout his life. Kirwan said the defense is expected to appeal.

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