ELKTON — A man who stabbed his brother-in-law in the lower back at an Elkton-area apartment complex in May 2019 – critically wounding him – received a 10-year prison term on Monday.
Retired Cecil County Circuit Court Judge V. Michael Whelan imposed a 15-year sentence on the defendant, Aaron Patrick Jarvis, 27, of Elkton, for first-degree assault and then suspended five years of the penalty.
In March, after deliberating approximately two and a half hours at the conclusion of a two-day trial, a jury found Jarvis guilty of that assault charge, in addition to second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, which are lesser offenses that merged at sentencing.
The jury, however, acquitted Jarvis of the two most serious charges – attempted first-degree murder, an offense that is punishable by up to life in prison, and attempted second-degree murder, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence.
Whelan ordered Jarvis to serve five years of supervised probation after completing his 10-year term in a Maryland Department of Corrections prison.
Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Nelson sought 15 years of active incarceration during Monday’s hearing, specifically recommending a 25-year sentence with 10 years suspended.
The sentence imposed by Whelan falls in the middle of state sentencing guidelines, which set a penalty range of seven to 13 years of active incarceration for Jarvis. State sentencing guidelines are based on a defendant’s criminal record and other factors.
‘Lying in wait’
During the trial, Nelson told jurors that Jarvis — armed with a knife — was “lying in wait” for the victim, Ethan Durrett, 27, of North East, at approximately 1 a.m. on May 6 beside a parking lot at Pine Hill Apartments off Fletchwood Road and that Jarvis “almost immediately” stabbed Durrett in the back after he arrived there for a meeting.
Jarvis was living in that apartment complex with his wife, Shannon Jarvis, and their baby. Shannon Jarvis is the sister of Durrett’s wife, Katie Durrett, 31.
But Jarvis and his defense lawyer, C. Thomas Brown, maintained that it was Durrett who was the aggressor.
The defense acknowledged that Jarvis did, indeed, arm himself with a knife before the meeting, but contended that he did so only to display it to keep Durrett at bay because he was afraid of Durrett, who is physically larger than Jarvis.
Jarvis testified that, despite seeing the knife, Durrett still charged and took an errant swing at him. Jarvis maintained that he accidentally stabbed Durrett in the back while they were in face-to-face clinch amid their struggle.
Durrett testified that he and his wife were awakened shortly before midnight on May 5, when Jarvis’ wife, who was “crying hysterically,” called because Jarvis was not at the apartment with her and their baby and, instead, was driving around in his mother-in-law’s vehicle.
The couple then drove to that apartment complex while trying to set up a meeting with Jarvis, according to Durrett, who also told jurors that they were concerned for the “well-being” of Jarvis’ wife and their baby and noted that the issue of Jarvis’ unexplained absence from his marital home had occurred in the past.
Through text messaging, Durrett and Jarvis agreed to meet at the apartment complex, after Jarvis rejected other locations proposed by Durrett.
Durrett’s first message at 12:18 a.m. on May 6 read, “Yo this is Ethan. I need you to do the right thing and take Patty’s car back. You have a newborn at home dude and your wife is hysterically crying. Are you sick in the head dude? Go there keep your mouth shut and love your family. Be thankful for what you have my dude . . . do the right thing we don’t need serious issues.”
Jarvis responded, “Let’s have serious issues dawg.”
The defense maintained that Jarvis felt vulnerable at the proposed meeting spots he rejected.
As for the state, it contended that Durrett wanted to meet away from where Jarvis lives, concerned that a loud confrontation might occur and that it might disturb his wife and baby and result in eviction for the Jarvis family.
In the courtroom, Nelson played a recording of a loud, profanity-laced phone message that Jarvis left for Durrett during their text exchanges. At one point, Jarvis shouts, “Mind your (expletive) business.”
During his closing argument, Nelson told jurors, “Mr. Jarvis was very angry about the intrusion into his life.
Durrett testified that his wife purposely parked their car in a lot away from the Jarvis family apartment. He had taken about 10 steps away from the car, with his wife still in the driver’s seat, when he heard Jarvis yell, “Yo, mother(expletive),” from behind, he told jurors in March.
At that point, according to Durrett, he motioned to Jarvis and said, “Come over here. Let’s talk,” and then turned his back.
Then Jarvis rushed Durrett and hit him hard, Durrett testified.
“He hugged me and that’s when he stabbed me. The impact felt like a punch more than anything,” Durrett told jurors.
Durrett testified that he did not realize that he had stabbed at first and that he soon felt a “burning, throbbing” sensation in his lower left back.
While wrestling with Jarvis on the ground, according to Durrett’s testimony, Durrett saw a knife in Jarvis’ hand and commented, “You stabbed me, didn’t you,” and Jarvis replied, “Yeah, mother(expletive), you got it.”
Durrett testified that he punched Jarvis during their struggle and that Jarvis, of his own accord, dropped the knife to the ground.
When Jarvis noticed the blood, his demeanor shift to apologetic, according to Durrett.
“Something changed. There was a change in everything, his attitude, even the look in his eye,” Durrett testified.
Durrett recalled that Jarvis, lying on his back with hands and knees raised, said, “Sorry. You’re bleeding. You’re bleeding. Sorry, I didn’t mean to.” Durrett kicked Jarvis in the stomach, after rising to his feet, he testified.
Bleeding profusely, Durrett called 911 and his wife started driving him to Union Hospital in Elkton, he said. The dispatcher, however, instructed to wait for an ambulance at Elkton Middle School, explaining that he needed to be taken to Christiana Hospital in Delaware instead, he added.
Durrett slipped in and out of consciousness, spurring his wife to slap him in the face while driving to keep him awake. Durrett testified that he had only a hazy recollection of events after arriving at the school.
Kate Fillingane, a registered nurse at Christiana Hospital, testified as an expert witness in trauma wounds and injuries that Durrett was upgraded from a trauma alert to a trauma code shortly after arriving there, telling jurors that his heart rate was high and that his blood pressure was low.
“He was minimally responsive. He was not answering questions appropriately. He was very sleepy,” Fillingane told jurors.
Durrett received a unit of O Positive blood — universal donor blood — because, given his condition, there wasn’t time to determine his blood type, according to the nurse.
Trial testimony indicated that Durrett spent two full days in the hospital, before he was discharged.
Jarvis did not remain at the scene after the stabbing, according to testimony given by the Maryland State Police detectives who investigated the case.
The Maryland Apprehension Team, which functions similarly to a SWAT, tracked down Jarvis and arrested him on May 7 — a day later — at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Glasgow, Del.