- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A 24-year-old man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a University of Maryland student during a robbery last year was sentenced Wednesday to 49 years in prison.

Deandre Ricardo Williams had been robbed of his own stash of drugs and planned the robbery of an “easy target” to help him recoup his losses, Prince George’s County Assistant State’s Attorney Wesley Adams said during the sentencing. His target, 22-year-old Justin DeSha-Overcash, was fatally shot inside his College Park home on Jan. 11, 2011.

Mr. Williams was in this predicament because other drug dealers had robbed him of his stash,” Mr. Adams said.

Police have said they believed DeSha-Overcash’s home was targeted because of the marijuana they found there while investigating the murder. Williams‘ defense attorney, William Brennan, said another person told Williams he had previously bought drugs there.

Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, in Prince George’s County Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro, was moved to the courthouse’s ceremonial courtroom to accommodate the swell of friends and family of both Williams and DeSha-Overcash who attended.

DeSha-Overcash’s mother, Karen DeSha, told the court of the debilitating depression she has suffered since the loss of her only child.

“I have gone from an extreme extrovert to an introverted recluse,” she said in between sobs. “When I must force myself to go out, I break down.”

Others voiced concern for her health and well-being now that the case has concluded.

“My one fear is that when this is over, as Ms. DeSha said, she will stop existing,” Mr. Adams said. “I have never seen a loss like this.”

DeSha-Overcash was a senior astronomy and physics major at the University of Maryland, College Park campus who had come to the university from North Carolina.

“There will be no closure here today,” said his father, Randy DeSha-Overcash. “Our loss is something that the court will never understand.”

While friends and family addressed the court to speak about the death of DeSha-Overcash, none of those gathered in support of Williams nor Williams himself spoke at the hearing.

Williams went to the home DeSha-Overcash shared with several other university students armed with a gun and ski mask, authorities said. Another man, 22-year-old Brian Weaver, drove a getaway car. Weaver was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March.

Mr. Brennan said Williams‘ sentence should reflect that he was not the mastermind behind the robbery.

Mr. Adams replied that Williams had attended college himself for a time and had opportunities other than crime.

“Unlike other folks who come before this court, Mr. Williams had a way out,” he said.

In addition to the 49-year sentence for the first-degree murder charge, Judge Cathy Serrette issued a 25-year sentence for the use of a handgun during a crime of violence, which will be concurrently served, and five years of probation.

During the sentencing, Judge Serrette made note that Williams was facing gun-related charges in the District at the time of the murder.

“I find it not insignificant that you were under supervision for D.C. Superior Court and you took a gun and shot someone,” she said.

Mr. Brennan said he plans to appeal the case, challenging the constitutionality of his client’s confession.