A Prince George's County judge yesterday found Stephen Shade guilty of murdering his wife and their one-month-old baby last February, rejecting claims by Shade's lawyer that the 28-year-old maintenance man from Greenbelt was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Shade could receive up to 30 years in prison on each of two second-degree murder charges. Sentencing is scheduled for January.
Circuit Judge Howard S. Chasanow said Shade was crazed by the drug PCP when he shot his wife Debra, 19, and infant son Jason. Officials said the shooting occurred in the Bay Brooke Village apartment where the family lived. Shade was not a paranoid schizophrenic as his attorney and defense witnesses argued, Chasanow found. Chasanow added that Shade was exaggerating symptoms of mental disease, to some extent.
Chasanow said the decision was "one of the most difficult" he had made. The central question was whether Shade's behavior--which Chasanow and both defense and prosecuting attorneys described as "bizarre"--was caused by mental illness aggravated by PCP, or by the hallucinogenic drug alone. While psychiatrists and psychologists differed on the answer, most of them agreed that the symptoms of PCP intoxication and schizophrenia were very similar.
Shade testified on Friday that he did not shoot his wife and child, but shot at "voices" after he saw the devil's face and figures in hooded robes in the apartment furnace room. But prosecuting attorney Nelson Rupp argued that because Shade had confessed to the killings several times, he obviously knew what he had done.
Chasanow said Shade, who stared solemnly at the table in front of him during the trial, "has got to be aware that a verdict that he was insane at the time of the act would be better for him." He said Shade had "somewhat exaggerated" his mental distress, and while he may be suffering "post-traumatic" problems because of the murders, they were "not evidence of a longstanding mental disorder."
Chasanow noted that several friends of the Shades and members of Debra Shade's family had testified that Shade was "outgoing and friendly" when not under the influence of PCP, and that officials from the county detention center testified that Shade got along well with other prisoners.
"We are satisfied that the defendant's acts were produced by a PCP intoxication rather than by any underlying mental disease," Chasanow said.
He called PCP "the single most dangerous poison on the street today," and said he hoped there is "a special place in hell, or some remote corner of our penal system, for anyone who sells it."