- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For the accidental death of an 18-year-old at a party in July 2012, a Waldorf man will serve a year-long sentence with work release allowed.
Marco Deangelo Sawyer, now 24, stood trial for involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and affray, all of which he was found guilty in January.
At an Indian Head house party July 7, 2012, Charles County Deputy State’s Attorney Karen Piper said, Sawyer got into a fight with 18-year-old Jerry Adam Gilchrist. Sawyer punched Gilchrist in the head, and Gilchrist died shortly thereafter.
A 21-year-old Mechanicsville man, Kyrel Antonio Lewis, allegedly joined Sawyer in punching Gilchrist. Lewis has not yet stood trial, and court records online indicate that a trial scheduled for June 9 has been canceled. No new trial date has been set.
“[Gilchrist] just dropped flat on his back, and that was it,” witness Erica Capuano said in her testimony in January. “He gasped for breath, but after that, stopped. That was it. There was no gasping, no more sound. He didn’t just look unconscious. He really looked lifeless.”
Before sentencing began, Sawyer’s attorney, public defender Michael Beach, petitioned Circuit Judge Amy J. Bragunier for a retrial, which the judge denied.
The family and friends of Gilchrist packed one of the upper-level courtrooms Monday for Sawyer’s sentencing. One woman, Karen Atchinson, who spoke to the court said she felt she was like “a second mom” to Gilchrist.
“It’s senseless, especially for someone who didn’t come to seek trouble,” Atchinson said. “I watched [Gilchrist] grow up ... and I really had developed a mother-like love for him. He was not a young man in and out of jail looking for trouble.”
Eugene Hellams, Gilchrist’s former boss, also spoke highly of the deceased’s character.
“Not having him has truly been a big loss,” Hellams said. “He touched the lives of others. I truly hope that justice will be served.”
Gilchrist’s mother Floriece then took the floor, with her husband Melvin, his father, standing alongside her. Floriece Gilchrist described her son as a loving and compassionate young man who, having recently graduated from high school at the time of his death, was just beginning his life.
“Jerry was well on his way at the young age of 18,” Floriece Gilchrist said before going on to describe what she felt had happened at that fated party. “For some reason Jerry felt things weren’t quite right. ... We believe that he felt somewhere, there was an underdog. Instead of things dissipating, he was punched square in the face. This was not Jerry’s choice. He was not, I repeat, not one of these young men in and out of trouble with the law. ... Our son’s promising future has ended, and it has impacted us tremendously. ... My husband and I ... ask that you please give justice to Jerry by giving the maximum sentence to Marco Deangelo Sawyer.”
“The comments made, I can’t add too much more,” Piper said. “Choices were made that evening. ... Marco Deangelo Sawyer has his life. Jerry Gilchrist does not.”
Piper said Sawyer hasn’t shown any signs of redemption throughout the proceedings and noted how at one point Sawyer, who is African-American, had claimed he considers himself a victim of the system because of his race.
“The deceased was a young black man who is no longer here. What about him?” Piper asked.
Beach said Gilchrist was not quite so blameless in his death.
“It gives me no joy to say any of this ... but this was a punch thrown during a fight. That’s the reality of what this is,” Beach said. “That night [Gilchrist] was hanging out with people who aren’t good people. He wanted to fight. He said, ‘If you want to fight someone, fight me.’ That doesn’t make him a bad guy, but it makes it a different case than someone standing idly by and getting popped in the face. This was chaos at this party. ... I know [Sawyer] is very sorry ... and I think it’s a tribute to him that he wants me to say that.”
Sawyer will serve his term with nine years of suspended time. He also will be on supervised probation for five years upon his release.
Speaking on Tuesday during a phone interview, Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington said he, like Piper, had hoped for a longer sentence for Sawyer.
“The family spoke eloquently, I thought, and the state agrees,” Covington (D) said. “I respect the court’s sentence, but we stand firmly behind the family on this one. We look at both sides and the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. … We thought the family said it all.”