A 14-year-old Bladensburg youth faces the possibility of life in prison after a Prince George's County jury yesterday convicted him of first-degree felony murder for killing a pizza deliveryman during a holdup last February.
After deliberating for about six hours, the Circuit Court jury found Travis Lionel Savoy guilty of murdering Javier Eduardo Castillo, 33, last Feb. 17. The jury also convicted Savoy of robbery, robbery with a deadly weapon, involuntary manslaughter and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.
Believed to be the youngest person ever charged as an adult with murder in Prince George's County, the slightly built Savoy, dressed in a long-sleeved checkered shirt and dark trousers, did not react outwardly as the verdict was read.
But the verdict touched off emotion on both sides of the spacious Upper Marlboro courtroom, which held about two dozen friends and relatives of Savoy and about a dozen Castillo family members.
Several young women, relatives or friends of Savoy, wept as the verdict was read and the reality sank in that the teenager could be sentenced to life in prison. One young woman, identified by Savoy's attorneys as the youth's older sister, gasped, "I love you!" as a sheriff's deputy snapped handcuffs on the youth and led him away.
Some 20 feet away, on the other side of the courtroom aisle, tears welled in the eyes of Martha Torres, Castillo's sister.
Along with about a dozen other relatives of the victim--cousins, uncles, aunts and three young nieces--Torres attended every day of the five-day trial and every pretrial hearing.
"I'm happy that justice was served and this boy will not kill again, so another family will not have to go through the ordeal we experienced," Torres said in Spanish. Torres and other Castillo family members shook hands with the prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney William M. Manico, and thanked him for his efforts.
Circuit Court Judge Graydon S. McKee III scheduled sentencing for Nov. 29. Savoy could be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder, plus additional time of more than 50 years for the other charges.
To prevent the possibility of emotion-fueled confrontations between members of the Savoy and Castillo families, McKee had them leave the courtroom in two separate groups, escorted by sheriff's deputies. McKee also ordered observers to remain in the courtroom while sheriff's deputies escorted members of the racially mixed jury to their cars.
Savoy faces another murder trial, scheduled to begin Monday. He is charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the fatal January shooting of a former classmate, Dominick Elliout Hiers, 16, of Cheverly.
In the Castillo case, prosecutor Manico told jurors during his closing argument on Thursday that Savoy's statement to police admitting to the shooting, and the testimony of witnesses who said the teenager told them he shot Castillo, proved he was the killer.
Manico told jurors that if they concluded Savoy committed the robbery, they must find him guilty of felony murder, a slaying in the commission of another felony, regardless of whether he wanted to kill his victim. Savoy told police the shooting was an accident.
In his opening and closing arguments, defense attorney Antoini M. Jones put forth the theory that Savoy, believing he would be tried in juvenile court, took the blame for a 19-year-old who really committed the crime. If tried as a juvenile, any sentence he received would end when he turned 21.
"The whole case is a tragedy," Jones said after yesterday's verdict. "A man lost his life needlessly, while he was working hard."