A Southeast Washington man was sentenced yesterday to a 50-year prison term for killing a 67-year-old neighbor in a brutal attack and robbery.
Marcus A. Graham, 21, who had come knocking at Lucille Batchelor's door, had no intention of helping her, as his family often did, prosecutors said. He planned from the start to steal from her, they said.
Prosecutors said that Graham had been at church shortly before the slaying and that he and his wife had an argument there over money. Leaving in a huff, Graham made his way back to the 3400 block of 25th Street SE and to Batchelor's front door on a Sunday morning in November 2002, prosecutors said.
Invited inside, he rifled through Batchelor's purse when she stepped away, prosecutors said. But she returned sooner than he anticipated and confronted him, setting in motion the fury that took the woman's life, they said.
First, according to prosecutors, Graham tripped Batchelor and beat her with her own cane. When she fell to her knees, he slammed her head into the edge of the dining room table. When she collapsed to the ground, he took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her, prosecutors said.
They described Graham as a chronic drug user who had taken PCP, a drug that police say has been linked to other cases of extreme violence in the city.
Graham, who denied any role in the killing, was convicted by a jury in May. Several members of Batchelor's family attended his sentencing yesterday, including Ellen Batchelor, one of the victim's daughters, who stood before the court and tried to put the loss into words.
After trying to face Graham and speak directly to him, Ellen Batchelor was admonished twice to speak only to the judge. Then she turned toward D.C. Superior Court Judge John. H. Bayly Jr., but she kept her remarks directed at Graham.
"You just don't know what you did to me and my family," she said, a framed portrait of her mother set on the table in front of her, turned toward the defendant. "Our lives have been turned around."
Asking the judge to punish Graham to the "utmost," Batchelor lamented the lack of any sanction under D.C. law more severe than life without parole -- the maximum sentence that Graham faced for first-degree felony murder and other charges.
"Too bad they don't have the death penalty here," she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen L. Melnik, who prosecuted the case with Stephen J. Pfleger, asked the judge to impose the maximum, calling the killing a "truly horrific crime."
When the time came for Graham to speak, he expressed sympathy to the Batchelor family and then reiterated his innocence -- repeating the same contention he made when he took the stand during his trial.
" I had nothing to do with the death of Ms. Batchelor," Graham said as he stood next to his attorney, Thomas Heslep. "Sometimes you put your faith in the system, and it fails you. . . . Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
Prosecutors said Graham admitted attacking Batchelor, but his family says the incriminating statements were the result of fatigue and trickery. A motion for a new trial has been filed, and an appeal appears likely.
"This picture they're trying to paint of my son, as a hardened criminal, it's not true," Clarence Perry said after the sentencing.