Steven Troese Jr., son of a millionaire lawyer and landowner in Prince George's County, was sentenced yesterday to life in prison for his role in the Dec. 15 murder of Michael Hoffmann, 20.
"I will never forget the two cement blocks were fastened to Michael Hoffman's body, one to his head and one to his legs," said county circuit court Judge Jacob S. Levin during sentencing.
Seconds later he added, "I sentence you for the period of your natural life."
"oh God," gasped Troese's mother, Patricia. Some of the women among the 75 relatives, friends and acquaintances of Troese in the courtroom began crying, and men put their arms around them.
Steven Troese, 19, wearing a pin-striped suit, was then handcuffed and taken to Patuxent jail in Jessup, Md., a facility for criminals in need of psychological therapy. If after a 90-day evaluation period Troese is admitted there, he could be released in three years. If he does not qualify for the therapy he will not be eligible for parole for 12 years.
Until last Thanksgiving, Troese had attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania on a football scholarship. He dropped out of school and returned home to Upper Marlboro, a mostly rural, affluent section of Prince George's County. Less than a month later, he and five other youths -- including the victim's wife who Tuesday was convicted of murder -- were charged with Hoffman's killing.
Troese pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder for his role in the case and is the first person in it to be sentenced. Prosecutor Michael Whalen alleged that Troese recruited two of the accomplices, provided George Harvey with the rifle that killed Hoffman, showed Harvey how to use the rifle and helped dispose of Hoffman's body in a creek in Aquasco in the southern part of Prince George's County.
Two psychiatrists, a former teacher, a former football coach, more than a dozen friends and Troese's own father testified about young Troese's character.
Charles Dukes, a partner in the senior Troese's law practice who represented the son, also showed the judge a 30-minute television documentary about PCP, called "Angel Death," after the psychiatrist testified that Troese's use of PCP prompted his involvement in the murder.
The elder Troese, a prominent county Republican, has one of the most lucrative real estate law practices in the county. He owns more than $1 million in county real estate, Dukes told a judge in December when he was trying to get bond for the son.
Steven Troese Jr. sometimes deove his father's Lincoln Continental, his friends said outside the courtroom, and had a new car of his own. His and had a new car of his own. His parents' house had a pool and tennis courts, friends said.
As a student at Frederick Douglass Senior High School in Upper Marlboro, he was popular, recieved Bs and Cs and was a member of the football team, they said. Although he went to college on a football scholarship, he could not play football during his first semester because he had injured his leg, according to court testimony.
"The coaches paid no attention to him . . . ." said Dr. H. L. Resnick, one of the psychiatrists who testified yesterday. "He began to cut classes, feel depressed and smoke pot."
Troese dropped out of school against his father's wishes, Resnick said. At home, he found a new friend in John Penkert, 26, a construction worker, who had been Donna Hoffmann's boyfriend before and, some testified, after her marriage. Penkert also pleaded quilty in the murder case. Resnick said Penkert was Troese's new role model, replacing his father and the coaches at school.
ytroese and Penkert smoked PCP together constantly, Resnick said. "In this context consistently, Resnick said. "In this context his judgement was disordered and reality suspended. His ability to ascertain right from wrong was seriously incapacitated," Resnick said.