Adult charges

This white trailer on Green Lane near Port Deposit is where Willie Lee Woodberry, then 14, allegedly gunned down his stepfather last February. On Friday, a judge ruled that Woodberry, now 15, will tried as an adult on first-degree murder charges.

ELKTON — A 15-year-old boy will be tried as an adult on first-degree murder charges in connection with the fatal shooting of his stepfather inside their Port Deposit-area home last year, a judge ruled Friday.

Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Brenda A. Sexton denied a defense motion to transfer the murder case against Willie Lee Woodberry to juvenile court, where penalties are less stringent than those in adult court.

Woodberry was a 14-year-old Perryville High School freshman when he and his 23-year-old stepbrother, Alishawaine Raheen Monk, allegedly gunned down their stepfather, Vincent McKinley Robertson, 47, at close range between 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on Feb. 17, 2014, inside their mobile home in the unit block of Green Lane.

Charged as an adult with first-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence and several other offenses, Woodberry is scheduled for a jury trial on Jan. 20. It is expected to last four days.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Woodberry, who turned 15 in September, could receive a life-without-parole sentence.

Had Woodberry’s case been transferred to juvenile court and had he been found delinquent, he likely would have been freed from commitment within 12 to 18 months after successfully completing a step-program, according to court testimony from Woodberry’s Cecil County Department of Juvenile Services caseworker.

The judge rendered her decision to retain Woodberry’s adult status at the conclusion of a hearing in which the teen’s lengthy juvenile record – seven referrals, six of them occurring while on probation — was revealed by the defense.

Woodberry’s chronic delinquency while on probation is one of the factors cited by Sexton for denying the defense motion to transfer his murder case to juvenile court.

Sexton explained that his poor probation record indicates Woodberry would not be amenable to treatment and programs through juvenile services, one of the five standard areas a judge must consider when presiding over a reverse waiver hearing.

Along those lines, Sexton expressed concern for public safety if Woodberry were to be found delinquent of murder at the juvenile court level and then be released within 12 to 18 months after his commitment.

In August 2013, after Woodberry was first referred to juvenile services for selling $20 worth of marijuana to a fellow student at Perryville High School, he was placed on one year of probation, the caseworker testified. A month later, Woodberry was referred after getting caught with less than a gram of marijuana at Perryville High School, according to the caseworker.

Then over the next several months, Woodberry accumulated five more referrals to juvenile services, with most of those incidents relating to possession of marijuana, she testified.

The caseworker did not make a recommendation for or against the defense motion to transfer Woodberry’s case to juvenile court, opting to defer to the judge.

Woodberry’s defense lawyer, Edward A. Richitelli, acknowledged that his client’s juvenile record lists several referrals, but then emphasized that the nature of his delinquent acts show no propensity for violence.

“Almost all were related to marijuana,” Richitelli said, adding that the Woodberry’s drug-related juvenile services referrals are incongruent with the murder charges he now faces.

(According to court records, homicide investigators found 1.7 pounds of packaged marijuana in the woods near the murder scene, and they have linked Woodberry and Monk to it.)

Sexton also cited the seriousness of the charges against Woodberry as a reason for keeping the teen’s murder case in juvenile court. From the bench, the judge read aloud each of the 12 indictment counts against Woodberry.

At one point during the proceeding, Richitelli maintained that Woodberry wasn’t the triggerman and then alleged that it was Monk who fatally shot their stepfather.

Monk, who turned 24 last month, also is charged with first-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence and numerous other offenses. His jury trial is set to start Feb. 2 and also is expected to last four days.

“There were no powder burns on my client. There was no blood splatter,” Richitelli said.

The defense lawyer then proffered that prosecutors also believe that Monk is the triggerman, and that they are using the murder case against Woodberry as leverage in hopes that Woodberry will “point to his brother.”

Prefacing that he has known Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins III for more than 30 years and has known him to be a “competitive” lawyer who is now a tough prosecutor, Richitelli told the judge that Rollins had expressed a reluctance to prosecute Woodberry on the murder charges.

“He said, ‘Eddy, don’t make me try this kid,’” Richitelli said in court, referring to a conversation he had with Rollins.

Assistant State’s Attorney David Parrack objected as Richitelli spoke, and the judge sustained it.

At the outset of Friday’s hearing, Richitelli notified the court that Woodberry had rejected a plea deal offered by the state. The details of that rejected plea deal were not made public.

In another development Friday, the judge granted a defense motion to block prosecutors from presenting a taped confession by Woodberry, because Maryland State Police investigators had surreptitiously recorded it as the teen was speaking with relatives alone in a conference room at the North East Barrack.

“Willie continued to say that with all of the scenarios that police are putting out ‘are irrelevant because we killed him’ — referring to Vince (Robertson). He also made statements like, ‘I know who did it and I ain’t (expletive) tellin’ you, and I got to keep the drugs’,” according to court records.

MSP investigators arrested Woodberry, Monk and their 11-year-old stepbrother in July, at the conclusion of a five-month-long investigation.

The case against the youngest stepbrother, now 12, has since been dismissed. He was charged as a juvenile.

Court records allege that Woodberry, Monk and their younger stepbrother were the only ones present in the trailer at the time of the fatal shooting.

Those documents also allege that scientific tests revealed a “strong presence of Willie Woodberry’s DNA” under the murder victim’s fingernails.

Detectives have tied Monk to the suspected murder weapon — a chrome Taurus Judge revolver that a citizen found in a neighborhood near the Green Lane residence on April 26 and turned over to authorities, according to court records.

Investigators have released possible motives for the murder — including Monk intervening after Robertson and his wife, Tina Robertson, had a fight, court records allege. Tina Robertson reportedly was at work at the time of the murder.

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