- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Robert Paul Lucas was sentenced yesterday to 421/2 years in prison for the murder, robbery and burglary of Germantown Catholic priest Thomas Wells 14 months ago.
Monsignor Wells' body, stabbed and slashed nine times, was found June 8, 2000, in the rectory of Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown. He was 56.
Rockville Circuit Court Judge Paul McGuckian listened to the appeals for either a severe sentence or a lenient sentence, then sentenced Lucas to the maximum of 70 years but suspended all but 25 years for second-degree murder, 10 years for robbery with a deadly and dangerous weapon and 71/2 years for burglary.
State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said Lucas will probably spend the rest of his life in prison but was nevertheless critical of the sentence.
"Had the judge given the jury the proper instructions of felony murder," predicted Mr. Gansler, the jury, which deliberated nearly 30 hours, might have returned a guilty verdict for first-degree murder.
"Clearly, the judge had sympathy for the defendant. We had sympathy for Monsignor Wells' family," said Mr. Gansler. He said many county residents think the judges impose "sentences that are too light."
Judge McGuckian, 63, has been a Montgomery County judge since 1987.
He listened yesterday as forensic psychiatrist Dr. Neil Blumberg described Lucas' childhood and a family history of abuse and incest.
"The family situation in which you were raised," Judge McGuckian said to Lucas before sentencing, "was about as bleak as any I have come across. That, of course, does not justify what you did."
The youngest of five children, Lucas was born with a cleft palate and underwent surgeries beginning when he was 1-month old and concluding when he was 18, Dr. Blumberg said.
The resulting scars resulted in nicknames of "Half-Lip" and "Crooked Lip." He was subjected to "constant teasing and abuse because of his appearance." Lucas was a "bed-wetter" until he was 12, Dr. Blumberg said.
His father, who split from the mother in 1987, was an alcoholic. Lucas first drank alcohol when he was 4, first got drunk when he was 8 and started smoking pot. He got a job when he was 13 and began drinking heavily, using LSD and PCP. When he was 19, he was drinking two 6-packs of beer and getting drunk every day, the psychiatrist said.
During the trial, Lucas testified he often drank 24 beers after getting off his job as a tree-trimmer, for which he was paid $100 per day. At the time, he was living in an immobile van near Clarksburg.
"The family is rampant with physical abuse," Dr. Blumberg said, explaining that physical abuse extended back into the grandparents' time, and saying that Lucas' father beat his children and "severely beat" their mother.
"All three of his brothers have had drug problems," Dr. Blumberg said, and their mother, Judy Lucas, has been disabled since 1987.
"[Lucas] has been severely traumatized and damaged throughout his horrible childhood," Dr. Blumberg said.
Lucas testified during the trial that he was drunk when he entered the rectory, and that he pulled his pocket-knife and killed Monsignor Wells after the priest tried to get him to engage in sex.
"It was a major precipitating event," said Dr. Blumberg. "When that occurred, he exploded."
Monsignor Wells' family listened understandingly but complained that Lucas has never shown remorse. They disbelieved that Monsignor Wells sexually confronted Lucas, and said Lucas' testimony was slanderous and destructive of a life and career that was free of sin.
Susan Tripodi, one of Monsignor Wells' two sisters, said a sentence that was less than the maximum would be a reward to Lucas for telling "slanderous lies."
"Killing our Tommy was an act of pure evil," said another sister, Kathleen Farley.
It is ironic, Mrs. Farley pointed out, that Lucas had such a troubled life and Monsignor Wells "could have given him the help he needed."
"Instead, he took the stand and assassinated the character of Monsignor Wells," Mr. Gansler said.
"I cannot think of a murder that has taken place in the metropolitan area of Washington that has devastated so many people," said brother Dan Wells, adding that letters of consolation still arrive from people across the nation who knew their brother.
Judy Lucas said she knows her son is truly remorseful and suggested Monsignor Wells' family visit him in prison.
"I know Robert would talk to them," Mrs. Lucas said, and said the "look in his eyes" would clearly show his remorse.
"If he was truly evil, we could in no way support him," said a sister, Lisa Lucas.
"I am sorry," the 26-year-old convicted killer told the court. "If I could take everything back and change it, of course I would."
Judge McGuckian recommended that Lucas serve the time at Patuxent Institution at Jessup, Md., which provides psychological rehabilitation.

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