ELKTON — An 18-year-old man who randomly stabbed a stranger on the street of neighborhood near North East last summer — nearly killing the victim — received a 12-year prison term on Monday.
Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. imposed a 20-year sentence on the defendant, Marquis Benson, who was 17 at the time of the August 2019 stabbing, and then suspended eight years of it. The sentence imposed by Davis fell at the top of state sentencing guidelines, which set a penalty range of five to 12 years of active incarceration for Benson. State sentencing guidelines are based on a defendant’s criminal record and other factors.
Davis’ sentence matched a recommendation made by Assistant State’s Attorney Nathaniel Bowen during the courtroom sentencing.
In February, Benson had entered an Alford plea to first-degree assault as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors, in exchange, dismissed attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree and several other related charges.
(A defendant who enters an Alford plea maintains his innocence while acknowledging that the state possesses enough evidence to convict him or her at trial.)
Also part of the sentence, Davis ordered Benson to serve five years of supervised probation after completing his 12-year term in a Maryland Department of Corrections prison.
In addition, the judge ordered Benson to pay $22,100 in restitution to the victim to cover his medical expenses. The victim, whom investigators identified only as a 24-year-old man who lives near North East, received extensive treatment at Christiana Hospital in Delaware after suffering a deep stab wound to his back.
Benson randomly attacked the man on Aug. 23, after spotting him walking in the area of Champlain Road and Champlain Court in the Lakeside Mobile Home Park while Benson and three other people, including Benson’s 17-year-old brother, were joy-riding in a Ford Escape that had been stolen by one of his companions — Joshua Ryan Warren, an Elkton-area resident who was 15 at the time of the incident, according to prosecutors.
After stepping out of the front passenger’s side door, Benson, who lived in Townsend, Del., at the time of the incident, approached the man and stabbed him in the back with a knife as the victim started to flee from him, prosecutors reported.
Benson and his three companions sped away in the stolen vehicle, leaving the wounded man, prosecutors said. The victim was taken to Christiana Hospital in Delaware after he called family members for help, prosecutors added.
Maryland State Police troopers arrested Benson and his three companions at approximately 11:15 p.m. on Aug. 23, shortly after the stabbing, after chasing the Ford Escape in response to a stolen vehicle complaint, court records show.
The foursome ran away after the Ford Escape driven by Warren crashed on Route 7 near North East during that pursuit, and troopers captured them in that area a short time later, according to court records.
Troopers then learned that doctors at Christiana Hospital were treating a man who had been stabbed near North East in an incident involving a stolen white Ford Escape, which prompted an MSP investigator to interview the victim at that medical center, police reported.
Meanwhile, MSP investigators interviewed Benson and his brother separately at the North East Barrack. (Benson’s brother, who, according to court records, turned 18 one week after the incident, reportedly was charged as a juvenile. Benson turned 18 in February, six months after the incident, court records show.)
“(He) implicated his brother (Benson) as the passenger who stabbed the man . . . He also stated the four (occupants of the stolen Ford Escape) knew they were going to Lakeside to look for someone to fight,” according to court records, which indicate that Benson’s brother also told investigators that all of the occupants were aware there was a knife in that vehicle.
During his interview, however, Benson admitted only to a lesser involvement in the random attack — punching the man.
“Benson advised he likes to fight people and he knew that everyone in the vehicle agreed to ‘jump’ the first person they saw while driving through the Lakeside trailer park. Benson stated he was implicated in the assault by punching (the man) in the face as hard as he could,” according to charging documents made public shortly after the incident.
Benson also told investigators that Warren made all of his passengers aware that the Ford Escape had been stolen, court records show. Police reported that the Ford Escape, which was valued at $20,762, had been stolen from an Elkton resident, who later identified the vehicle as his.
The man who suffered the stab wound told an MSP investigator that “a passenger exited the vehicle and approached him,” seconds before knifing him, court records show.
During a November courtroom hearing in which Davis denied a defense motion to transfer Benson’s criminal case to juvenile court, the judge commented from the bench, “The most terrifying thing about this case is they were looking to randomly target someone. They didn’t know the person. The scariest thing . . . it could have been anyone in this room if you were unfortunate enough to be in the location where the victim was.”
The victim suffered puncture wounds to his lungs and diaphragm, prosecutors reported.
“He damn near killed him,” Bowen told the judge during that proceeding, after gesturing toward the victim seated in the gallery and commenting, “The only thing worse would be if he weren’t here.”
In March, Warren, who had turned 16 one month earlier, received a one-year jail term after pleading guilty unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and conspiracy to commit second-degree assault, as part of a binding plea agreement.
During that March 13 hearing, Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes imposed two five-year sentences on Warren, making them concurrent, and then suspended four years of each penalty, in accordance with the binding plea agreement.
The judge, who ordered Warren to serve three years of supervised probation after completing his one-year term, also imposed a concurrent one-year sentence on Warren for fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer in an official police vehicle, to which Warren had pleaded guilty, as well.
Another one of Benson’s co-defendants, Jordan K. Fields, 19, of Elkton, is awaiting his July 27 sentencing, after he entered an Alford plea to conspiracy to commit second-degree assault during a January hearing The offense carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Fields occupied a rear seat, beside Benson’s older brother, in the stolen Ford Escape on the day of the incident, police reported. Fields’ sentencing originally had been scheduled for April 3, but it was postponed due to coronavirus-related restrictions at the courthouse.
The case against Benson’s older brother reportedly was handled in juvenile court.