Man given life without parole for stomping death in Wheaton

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The telephones used by inmates in Montgomery County jails come with plenty of warnings: Calls may be monitored or recorded, say signs and audio announcements.

Jose Vasquez, 21, either didn't notice or didn't care, and recordings of his calls came back to haunt him Monday when they were played before a judge about to sentence him for murder.

"Nothing I could say would be more telling, more powerful, Mr. Vasquez, than your own words," Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael Algeo said, moments before sending Vasquez to prison for the rest of his life for the stabbing and stomping death of a man in Wheaton last year.

In the profanity-laced calls, placed from the county jail in Clarksburg, Vasquez could be heard describing the victim's family members as punks. He recalled smiling at them during his trial. And he complained that the jury took too long to convict him.

"When they were like, 'We find you guilty,' I had the biggest smile on my face,' " Vasquez said during a call. "What were y'all doing in that room, you know, like, come on, man, just hurry up. Let me get back to Clarksburg. I am hungry. . . . It took y'all that long to say I was guilty? I could have said that the first day, you know. I would have saved . . . some time."

During another call, Vasquez can be heard giving advice to his brother on how to intimidate a potential witness in his own matters. Vasquez advised him to tell the potential witness that if he spoke to the police and ended up in jail, Vasquez could have him raped.

"You need to put it to these [people], man, you don't [mess] with us," Vasquez said.

The murder last year shocked residents, in part because it began harmlessly enough -- a 21-year-old man, Edwin Umana, calling out to women on a porch as he walked by a house -- and ended up with a half-dozen gang members chasing Umana down the street and assaulting him, according to police accounts. Vasquez stabbed Umana in the side of his head and was convicted in February.

At the hearing Monday, prosecutor John Maloney listed a series of Vasquez's earlier arrests, which included charges for carrying a knife at a public school, assault and possessing marijuana as well as more weapons charges. At 3:30 one morning, Maloney said, Vasquez was found with a backpack containing a loaded .38-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle with the serial number removed, and a hatchet with a folding knife in a hidden compartment.

Vasquez served time for weapons and harassment charges, Maloney said, but had been out of jail 33 days before killing Umana.

"Your honor," Maloney told Algeo on Monday, "put this psychopath in jail for life without the possibility of parole."

Algeo then asked Vasquez if he cared to speak.

"Yeah, I say something," Vasquez said, addressing the judge and the victim's family members in the courtroom. "I wish there was something I could say, put words together. . . . But I wasn't sorry at first, but I am now because I realize I didn't just affect his family. I affected his friends, his sister, brother, whatever . . .

"All I wish is that for Edwin to rest in peace, forever be in paradise. Other than that, I'm not here to ask you for your forgiveness. I don't want it. I don't want your pity. I don't want none of it. All I know is that God can judge me, and God, you know, He knows what's up. So, it is what it is. I know I am going home one day, whether it means physical or spiritual, I'm going home."

Algeo seemed disgusted. He sentenced Vasquez to life without the possibility of parole. Vasquez was not eligible for the death penalty.

"You didn't have any remorse then, and you have no remorse now," Algeo told Vasquez. "Not a single ounce of remorse. . . . Mr. Vasquez, you said God knows, God knows the deal, and you'll be going home some day. And I suspect the devil will be there to greet you."

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