A Prince George's County judge yesterday sentenced a government bookbinder to 20 years in prison for shooting and paralyzing his former girlfriend and ordered him to pay $500,000 in restitution when he is out of prison.
Circuit Court Judge William H. McCullough said he will also recommend that Larry Minster, 36, serve his sentence at the Patuxent Institute in Jessup, Md., where psychiatric treatment is given and which can release prisoners before their normal parole dates if officials believe they are ready to live in the community.
Minster, who worked for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, was found guilty in April of attempted first degree murder for shooting Cheryl Dodgson, 27, last June 8. Dodgson, a former car saleswoman, was permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
McCullough, who described the case as "overwhelmingly tragic," said he believed the attack was "an aberration" in Minster's life. He noted that Minster had no criminal record or history of violent behavior. "One brief moment--he pulled the trigger of a gun," the judge said.
McCullough said that sentencing Minster to prison was not necessary to protect the public and would do nothing to deter crime. Punishment and rehabilitation is needed, he said, and Patuxent would probably be the most appropriate place. McCullough said he believed Minster had "at least diminished capacity" when he shot Dodgson.
In a written statement prepared as part of the presentence investigation, Dodgson described her condition as "worse than being dead. I know it sounds terrible, but I wish he had done it right." Dodgson, who has an 8-year-old son, also said in the statement she "can't do anything. I am totally helpless. It's like being an infant again." She said she often feels like "a prisoner in my own body."
Dodgson attended the sentencing. She was strapped in a wheelchair and watched over by a nurse.
McCullough said no amount of money could correct the harm done to Dodgson, and described the $500,000 reparation payment as an arbitrary amount that Minster would probably spend the rest of his life paying. McCullough said the method of payment would be worked out by the Department of Parole and Probation when Minster is released from prison.
Prosecutor Nelson Rupp, who asked McCullough to impose a life sentence, argued that Minster showed little regret over what he had done. "The root of his remorse is that he is afraid of going to jail," Rupp said.
A psychiatrist and the pastor of Minster's church, called to testify by defense attorney John C. Monahan, said Minster was genuinely remorseful and in need of psychiatric counseling rather than imprisonment. During the trial, defense witnesses described Minster as depressed and suicidal after Dodgson broke off her relationship with him, and said his condition deteriorated after he hit his head in a fall at work.
Minster, who spoke briefly, told McCullough, "I'm sorry for everything I have done and the hardships I have caused for Cheryl Dodgson and her family. She's still alive, and I am not a murderer . . . . I have prayed about it, I have cried about this thing."