A Germantown man was sentenced yesterday to life in prison with no chance of parole for smothering his infant son to collect $150,00 in life insurance on the baby -- a death initially attributed to sudden infant death syndrome.
Garrett E. Wilson, 48, was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the 1987 death of his 5-month-old son, Garrett Michael Wilson. He was first found guilty in the case in 1999, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Wilson also faces a first-degree murder charge in Prince George's County in the 1981 death of 3-month-old Brandi Jean Wilson, his daughter by another woman. Authorities allege he killed the child for $40,000 in life insurance payments. That baby, too, was initially thought to have died of SIDS.
Wilson faced a mandatory life sentence in his son's death. The only question yesterday was whether the judge would suspend part of it or grant him the possibility of parole.
Upon hearing Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge D. Warren Donohue utter the words "with no possibility of parole," Wilson nodded his head several times as if that was what he had expected to hear. It was the same sentence he received after his first conviction.
Although Wilson did not testify in either trial, he told the judge he had always maintained his innocence.
"To stand here and ask for any mercy from you . . . would really be contradictory to my claim," said Wilson, wearing a gray suit and white dress shirt. "I'm not going to cry, whine or beg. . . . I'm not going to ask you for anything, sir."
Wilson's attorney, Brian D. Shefferman, had asked the judge to grant Wilson the possibility of parole, saying a life sentence was "sufficient punishment" for someone already in his late forties who had little chance at being released early. But Donohue said he felt compelled to impose the maximum penalty on someone who "deliberately and ruthlessly carried out" a plan to kill his own child for profit.
Wilson did not qualify for Maryland's death penalty because the two deaths with which he was charged did not arise from the same incident, prosecutors said.
Wilson's sentencing ended a 10-year legal battle for Mary "Missy" Anastasi, who went to police in 1994 after she and Wilson divorced. She told police she had long suspected that he had killed their baby early one morning after he volunteered to give the boy a bottle. With her then-husband in the nursery, Anastasi testified, she heard through the baby monitor what sounded like the child being burped and then what sounded like a sigh, which gave her the "chills."
Upon hearing the sentence, Anastasi smiled and hugged Jean Oliver, Brandi Jean's grandmother.
Anastasi said she was not surprised that Wilson maintained his innocence, even after two convictions.
"I wouldn't have expected an apology because he doesn't feel the same way other people do," Anastasi said outside the courtroom.
Oliver said her daughter, Debbie Oliver, was still too shaken from her infant daughter's death to attend her ex-husband's sentencing.
"Normally I'd say 'stick a needle in him,' " Jean Oliver said of Wilson, "but he'll be more punished sitting in prison thinking about the things he's done."
The Maryland medical examiner initially attributed both babies' deaths to SIDS. However, doctors changed the rulings after authorities discovered that Wilson had significant debts and that he had bought life insurance policies on both children.
The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Wilson's first conviction in 2002, ruling that jurors should not have been allowed to hear the testimony of two prosecution witnesses who said the odds were negligible that two children within the same family could both die of SIDS.
Wilson's trial in Brandi Jean's death is scheduled for January. However, Prince George's prosecutors likely will hold off on that case until they see whether Wilson's latest conviction in Montgomery withstands appeal, said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler called Brandi Jean's death "a dress rehearsal for Garrett's murder. . . . [Wilson] merely upped the ante of the financial reward."
A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge's life sentence for Wilson, 48, included no chance of parole. He maintains his innocence.