A Baltimore County judge ruled yesterday that a woman who bought a shotgun and a rifle for a man who went on a deadly shooting rampage is partly responsible for the slaying of one of his victims, an Essex woman gunned down on her way to church.
The assailant, Joseph C. Palczynski Jr., later barricaded himself in an apartment with three hostages for 98 hours before being shot to death by police.
Circuit Court Judge Lawrence R. Daniels ordered Constance Ann Waugh, 51, to pay $300,000 to the family of Jennifer McDonel, who was shot to death in Dundalk, Md., on March 7, 2000. Palczynski, 31, fired a shotgun at McDonel shortly after he fired into another passing vehicle, shattering the jaw of a 2-year-old boy. After a two-week search, police cornered Palczynski in a Dundalk apartment. His hostages, a child and two adults, were not physically hurt.
Daniels said in a telephone interview that $150,000 of the award was for McDonel's pain and suffering and $150,000 was ordered under a state law benefiting the crime victims and their families.
He said the money will go to McDonel's husband, Thomas McDonel, and their children.
Under state law, Daniels said, Waugh bears civil liability for McDonel's death. If she had not bought the guns, the judge said, McDonel "might not have been killed. And it was foreseeable that Palczynski, with his history of assault, might've used the guns to commit acts of violence.
"It's an extremely tragic case," he said. "Ms. Waugh has already been convicted and imprisoned under federal law, and she paid for what she did with her freedom. Now it looks like she'll have to pay with her money."
Thomas McDonel did not return a phone call seeking comment. Waugh, also of Essex, could not be located yesterday to comment
Waugh was sentenced to 16 months in prison two years ago after admitting to authorities that she bought a semiautomatic rifle and a shotgun for Palczynski, even though she knew that he had been convicted of assault.
Palczynski was barred by federal law from possessing firearms because of that conviction.
At her January 2001 trial, Waugh told prosecutors that she bought the guns in March 2000 with $1,600 from Palczynski "as a favor" after he told her that he needed them for a hunting trip.
Days later, Palczynski kidnapped a woman who had broken off a relationship with him; killed four people, including McDonel; and eluded authorities for two weeks before barricading himself in the apartment.