An 80-year-old man convicted in Montgomery County of trying to kill his son over a land dispute in Silver Spring was sentenced to 35 years in prison Tuesday.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David A. Boynton sentenced James Russell Lewis, to an additional 20 years for a burglary charge and 20 more for an assault charge, but those counts will be served concurrently, instead of consecutively.
“It is very rare to find a defendant of this age who had malice of forethought, someone who committed a crime not out of passion or of necessity but out of greed,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney Spokesman Ramon Korionoff.
In trial, prosecutors had said that Lewis, of Zion Church Road in Robertsdale, Pa., was consumed with anger when his mother gave four acres and a house on Ednor Road in Silver Spring to her grandson instead of to him. The house and land were valued at $378,000, according to 2012 county land records.
Russell “Rusty” Eugene Lewis, 58, testified during the trial that his father had hoped to inherit the land.
When Russell told his father about receiving the land instead, his father was “lost for words,” he testified.
In an argument several weeks later, James Lewis drove to Silver Spring to talk about the land with his son.
At one point while the two talked in Russell’s driveway, James Lewis put a gun he had with him on his truck’s console. Russell Lewis said that his father told him “I needed to fear him, because I didn’t have a clue what he was capable of.”
He dismissed the conversation as “idle threats,” he said, and traveled to St. Louis for his job as a union insulator.
On Sept. 20, 2011, James Lewis, who was 78 at the time, went to his son’s home shortly after learning he had returned from St. Louis, prosecutors said. Then, he threaded his way through a wooded area and walked to the house, using a key to let himself in. According to witnesses at trial, he did not have permission to be in the house.
James Lewis took off his shoes and tiptoed upstairs, then stood at the foot of the couch where his son was sleeping, and pointed a gun at him, prosecutors said.
Russell Lewis woke up to hear his father say “this is for you,” before shooting at his head twice as he lay on the couch, he said.
Russell survived the shooting because as he was waking up, he flung an arm across his face, intercepting a bullet headed straight for his forehead, prosecutors said.
Russell said he wrestled his father to the ground, took the gun, left the house, and called police.
Doctors removed the bullet lodged in his arm. The other had grazed his skull and hit a pillow on the bed.
James Lewis pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder in May 2012, but court records show the plea was vacated in March 2013.
James Lewis’s attorney, Ronald Gottlieb, argued that police did not perform crucial tests that might have been favorable to his client, such as a gunshot residue test, and that prosecutors failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that James Lewis was the shooter.