Samuel Keith Gemeny’s life ended over a bong, a bed and a debt of less than $100. Two of the six people involved in his death learned their own fates Tuesday in Charles County Circuit Court.
Dominic Xavier Daniel, now 26, was 24 on May 16, 2017, when he and five others forced their way into Gemeny’s home. Gemeny, 35, and Daniel, according to charging documents, had briefly lived together, and Daniel had moved out in February or March 2017. That night, on the premise that Gemeny owed him money and was holding onto his bed and a co-defendant’s bong, Daniel and five others — Morgan Tyrone Rich Jr., 29; Dominique Ariel Grant, 30; Andrew Loren Webb, 26; Jared Jacob Hayes, 33, all of Waldorf, and Gabrielle Marie Ditella, 21, of Coatesville, Pa. — rode in two separate cars to Gemeny’s Promenade Place apartment in Waldorf, which he shared with his girlfriend who was home at the time of the attack.
Once they arrived, the six split up into two groups and entered the building: one forced a door open, while the other waited for a resident to leave and entered through the open door. The trio of Daniel, Rich and Grant descended on Gemeny’s apartment, knocked on the door and forced their way inside once his girlfriend answered the door. A confrontation ensued, and Gemeny hit Daniel in the head with an iPad.
In turn, Daniel shot Gemeny to death.
Daniel entered an Alford plea to first-degree murder, first-degree assault and use of a firearm during a crime of violence in February, the Maryland Independent reported. An Alford plea means that while the defendant acknowledges the court has sufficient proof against them to secure a guilty verdict, they do not admit their guilt. According to the plea agreement, the sentence for all three counts will run concurrently.
Until Tuesday, Rich was the only one of the six who had not entered a plea, and was scheduled to stand trial beginning July 22. Before Circuit Court Judge H. James “Jay” West that morning, Rich pleaded guilty to the same three counts as Daniel: first-degree murder, first-degree assault and a weapons charge related to the murder.
As part of the plea agreement, Rich was sentenced to 40 years for Gemeny’s murder. He received 20 years for the weapons charge and 25 for the assault. The latter two counts will run concurrent with the murder charge, and when released Rich will be on five years of supervised probation.
Later in the day, Daniel appeared before Circuit Court Judge Amy J. Bragunier. Despite Daniel’s plea that he “be perceived with an open heart and open mind” and therefore sentenced leniently, Bragunier sentenced him to life for Gemeny’s murder. Although he was granted the possibility of parole — as was Rich — in Maryland, parole determinations for those guilty of first-degree murder are determined on a case-by-case basis by the governor.
Gemeny’s family and friends were present in the courtrooms for both cases Tuesday, some of them wearing “Justice for Sam” shirts with Gemeny’s picture on the back, posing with a fish he’d caught. In both cases, his loved ones spoke at length about the man they lost that night.
“This man I never met before that night changed my life in a minute,” Gemeny’s girlfriend said of Rich at his sentencing. “I can forgive all those involved because of the religion I’ve found that I never knew I had, but my life will never be the same. Their lives will never be the same.”
Gemeny was “a good man who would have done anything for anyone,” his girlfriend told the court. “I pray justice is served, and that something good can come out of this.”
Gemeny’s sister recalled his “ridiculous tight hugs ... his stupid laugh and his big goofy grin.” Gemeny was fond of telling bad jokes, she recalled, and now she and the rest of the family would give anything to hear one of those jokes again.
“I’ll never get to hear him say ‘I love you, little sister’ one last time,” the woman said to Rich. “The single moment of my life that defines you will be the moment you stole my brother’s life. Even though it hurts really bad, I forgive you all.”
Rich’s mother made no excuses for her son, saying that although she tried her hardest to raise him right she “lost him somewhere along the line.”
“I just ask that you guys can find it in your heart to forgive him,” she said. “This is not what a mother plans for her son, for both Morgan and Samuel.”
Gemeny’s uncle also spoke at both sentencing hearings. The man said Samuel wasn’t the first relative he’d lost ahead of his time, and that his brother had been murdered years before. He hoped that Rich, he said, “can find his way.”
Regarding Daniel, the man was much less forgiving.
“I hope you go straight to hell,” Gemeny’s uncle said, adding he felt Daniel has “a dark soul.”
“I hope you get life in prison, and I hope you die there. You’ll go straight to hell as far as I’m concerned.”
In delivering Rich’s sentence, Judge West said he couldn’t wrap his head around why the man had allowed his life to go down such a dark path when he had so much love and support from family.
“One day your daughter will need you and you won’t be there. Maybe it will hit you then,” West said.
Judge Bragunier’s remarks to Daniel were succinct, and also focused on the senselessness of that night.
“You’re asking for leniency, but you didn’t show Mr. Gemeny any,” Bragunier said.
Daniel was represented by defense attorney Benjamine Evan, and Rich by Keith Parris. Assistant State’s Attorneys Constance Kopelman and Andre Bruce prosecuted both cases.
Grant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in June 2018, and is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 28.
Ditellla pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit home invasion in May 2018, as did Hayes to conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and Webb to conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary.
All three will be sentenced July 31.