Paul E. Wersick, a 15-year-old Wheaton boy charged with two fatal shootings in the past two years, will be tried as an adult on charges that he murdered a Montgomery County tax assessor, a Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday.
Defense attorneys had argued during a two-day hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court that Wersick should be tried in the juvenile court system, where last year he was found "involved" in the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old playmate.
Under Maryland's new capital punishment law, prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Wersick because he is charged with murder during the commission of an armed robbery. However, Montgomery County Deputy State's Attorney Timothy Clarke said no decision has been made on whether prosecutors will ask for the death penalty in their case.
Had Wersick's case been transfered to juvenile court, no matter what the outcome, he would have been legally free of the court's jurisdiction when he reached the age of 21.
Noting that doctors had described Wersick as emotionally immature and "desperately in need of mental health care," Judge H. Ralph Miller said he was "reluctant to keep a young boy before this court." But he added that "when considering the public safety, I must deny the petition" to transfer the case to juvenile court.
The small, quiet youth who sat in Miller's courtroom yesterday was arrested last July, four days after the body of slain accessor George E. Angerman Jr. was found in an underground parking garage in Rockville. The assessor had been gagged and shot once in the head as he sat in the driver's seat of his Mercury Capri, police said.
Yesterday, Montgomery County Police Cpl. Jan Hutchison, who investigated Angerman's death, testified that a man detained with Wersick at the County Detention Center told police that Wersick "admitted to killing the guy."
Hutchison stated that the inmate, Eugene Raymond Thurston, said the 15-year-old aked his cellmate to help him escape if Wersick were sent to Hagerstown, an adult corrections institution.
According to Hutchison's testimony, Thurston told police Wersick said his mother would pay $3,000 if Thurston and another inmate helped him escape. Hutchison also testified that Thurston said Wersick indicated he had a shotgun and revolver hidden in his apartment building.
In a subsequent search, Hutchison said police found a "musket rifle" and a revolver in the apartment building. The revolver's serial number matched that of one stolen in a burglary at the Montgomery County home of a Metropolitan Police Department officer, Hutchison said.
On Monday, psychiatrists called by the defense testified that Wersick was a vulnerable and immature youngster, "an easy target" for his peers. Instead of fighting back, Wersick was said to retreat into fantasies of "ways of correcting injustices."
Defense witnesses outlined a proposal that Wersick be held at the Maryland Training School for Boys and treated there by a psychiatrist, if he were tried in juvenile court and found involved in Angermen's murder.
But in his ruling Miller noted juvenile services already had tried to treat Wersick after the shooting of his playmate. "Too many times in the past once some cure occurs, or there is slight improvement, services are suddenly discontinued," the judge said. "There have been some disastrous results."