- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. A jury convicted a mentally retarded ex-convict yesterday of sexually assaulting and murdering a 9-year-old boy in a case that prompted a push for tougher sentencing laws.
Elmer Spencer Jr. stared at the floor with the same solemn expression he wore throughout the 15-day trial as the verdicts were read in Frederick County Circuit Court. He was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree sexual offense and child abduction in the slaying of Christopher Lee Ausherman of Frederick.
He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole at his sentencing April 30.
The victim's mother, Mary Voit, exhaled loudly upon hearing the first guilty verdict. She expressed relief later in a statement read to reporters by her sister, Tina Hewitt.
"I would like to say I'm glad justice was served. Maybe Christopher can rest in peace now," the statement read.
The jury of six women and six men was out one hour and 45 minutes, surprising even State's Attorney Scott Rolle with the brevity of their deliberations. "I thought it would be longer," he said.
Two Frederick County state legislators with bills pending in the General Assembly aimed at keeping child molesters locked up longer said the trial's outcome underscored the need for such measures.
"These changes regarding the sexual predator mentality are overdue," said Sen. Timothy Ferguson, Frederick-Carroll Republican.
A bill sponsored by Delegate Sue Hecht, Frederick Democrat, would make even first-time offenders eligible for life without parole.
"I think this [verdict] will strengthen that there certainly are monsters out there called sexual predators that are released back in the general population," Mrs. Hecht said.
Spencer, 46, had been freed from prison under mandatory early release rules five days before the murder after serving about 3 years of a 10-year sentence for assaulting a woman. His record also includes a conviction for raping an 11-year-old boy and two other arrests for assaults on children. He has spent 23 of the past 28 years behind bars.
At trial, prosecutors portrayed Spencer as a predator who lurked around Christopher's public housing complex for several days, watching children, before luring the boy away with Pokemon cards and attacking him in the third-base dugout of a nearby baseball field the night of Nov. 19, 2000.
In his closing argument yesterday morning, Assistant State's Attorney David Callahan demonstrated how Spencer may have strangled Christopher with his boot lace. He also mimicked Spencer swinging the boy's body and smashing his head repeatedly against the dugout wall in a scene witnessed only by the killer.
"It was red rain. It was blood drops falling on his clothes as he did it," Mr. Callahan said.
Public Defender Franklin Stillrich insisted in his summation that police had not taken all steps necessary to eliminate another suspect who was apprehended near the crime scene and briefly detained because an officer thought his pants had stains that might have been blood. The stains were never tested.
Mr. Rolle said the police had done a thorough investigation. "We proved our case," he said.
Spencer, a slight, balding man, is ineligible for the death penalty because his IQ has consistently been tested below 70, the limit under a Maryland law that prohibits executing the retarded.

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