Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Killer sentenced to 35 years in Army Ranger’s murder

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Gary James Smith, 25, was sentenced in Montgomery County Circuit Court today to serve 35 years in prison for the 2006 murder of his roommate and fellow Army Ranger.

Smith was convicted in April of second-degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence in the shooting death of Michael McQueen Jr., 22, his roommate of three weeks. Both men were U.S. Army Rangers who served in Afghanistan.

The jury reached its verdict on April 2 after less than a day of deliberations. McQueen, who grew up in Miami, was found in his Gaithersburg apartment dead from a single gunshot wound to the temple after a night of drinking and smoking marijuana with Smith. Smith threw the gun, which he had retrieved that night from his parents’ home in Derwood, into Lake Needwood before he called 9-1-1.

Smith’s attorney, Andrew V. Jezic, said his client, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder which could have contributed to his client’s frame of mind.

Jezic asked the judge for a lenient sentence, citing an otherwise pristine police record. He read portions of a letter from one of Smith’s friends that said, ‘‘Gary needs treatment. Somebody needs to step up and fight for our returning warriors.”

Judge Eric M. Johnson sentenced Smith to 30 years for depraved heart second-degree murder, defined by law as ‘‘the killing of another person while acting in extreme disregard for human life.” He also sentenced Smith to 20 years, with 15 years suspended, for use of a handgun in committing a violent crime. Smith will face five years supervised probation after his release, Thompson said.

Rosemary Smith, who has publicly defended on her son, declined to comment Wednesday.

Smith’s grandfather, Gary Smith Sr., has expressed sympathy and condolences to McQueen’s family during today’s hearing.

Following the sentencing, he said, ‘‘It’s certainly a depressing thing to think of him with a 35-year sentence, but we feel strongly that we’re going to put in an appeal. We feel strongly that we have a strong case for an appeal.”

Michael McQueen, who spoke in court today of his anger that his son’s name had been tarnished throughout the trial, said his family’s ‘‘chief disappointment” is that Smith has not expressed remorse and waived an opportunity to comment in court today.

‘‘It’s a very critical decision that he made that shows a lack of remorse and human kindness,” McQueen said.