- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s jurors convicted John Morris Quade Jr. late Thursday afternoon of second-degree murder in the beating death of a nurse last summer on a jogging trail in Laurel Grove.
The jurors acquitted Quade of first-degree premeditated murder and robbery charges from the attack last August on Moneta Jo Strickland at the Three Notch Trail.
St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) argued during the trial that Quade robbed Strickland of her cellphone, and that Quade beat the woman’s head with a rock. Gerald J. Riviello, Quade’s lawyer, countered that the evidence did not support a charge of first-degree murder, either on a theory of premeditation or that Strickland was killed during the commission of another crime.
Earlier this week, the jurors heard a recording this week of a detective’s extensive conversation with Quade, who initially denied knowing about the woman’s death or being in the area, but ultimately acknowledged getting into an argument with her before he blacked out, by his account, and woke up next to her body and a bloody rock. Quade told the detective that he buried the body with leaves, threw the rock deep into the woods and took the woman’s cellphone home and destroyed it in a fire.
During their nearly five hours of deliberations, the jurors sent notes into the courtroom, including one inquiring if someone could be robbed after that person has died. “I think we both agree that the answer is ‘no,’” Fritz said to the trial judge after conferring with the defense lawyer.
The prosecutor said after Quade was indicted that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole would be sought if the suspect was convicted of first-degree murder. The maximum penalty for a conviction of second-degree murder is 30 years in prison.
Quade remained in custody without bond after Thursday’s verdict to await a presentence investigation.