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Monday, January 26, 2009

Prep School Student Admits to Killing Mother in Argument Over Grades

TOWSON, Md. — A Maryland teenager calmly admitted in court Monday that he beat his mother to death with a baseball bat after an argument over his grades at a prestigious private school.

Lewin C. Powell III, 16, wore a dark suit and showed no emotion as he answered questions from Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox about whether he understood the significance of his guilty plea to first-degree murder.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence with the possibility of parole when he is sentenced April 3. Powell's attorneys plan to ask for all but 15 years of the sentence to be suspended and to have their client sent to the Patuxent Institute, a maximum-security psychiatric facility with a program for young offenders.

Powell did not stir when a prosecutor read a statement of facts that detailed the prolonged attack on his mother and a similar beating of his father, who survived.

"He's always taken responsibility for what he's done," Shanell Kathleen Harleston, one of Powell's attorneys, said after the hearing. "He never wanted to prolong it."

Powell killed his mother, Donna R. Campbell-Powell, in May after an argument about his grades at McDonogh School, a prestigious private school in Owings Mill where he was a sophomore. But Harleston said the initial subject of the dispute with his mother was immaterial.

"This is a lifetime of problems that he's been dealing with that suddenly came to a head," Harleston said. "This particular day was the first time he had ever argued back. ... He just snapped that day."

Harleston would not specify what led to Powell's emotional difficulties, but the teen told police after he was arrested that his parents had pushed him too hard and he couldn't take it anymore, according to a statement of facts read in court Monday by Assistant State's Attorney Charles R. Gayle.

Harleston said Powell was not abused by his parents.

In exchange for Powell's guilty plea, prosecutors dropped all other charges, including a count of attempted murder for the attack on his father, who suffered two skull fractures when his son beat him with the same aluminum bat.

State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said after the hearing that he did not believe Patuxent was an appropriate placement for Powell. Prosecutors will argue that Powell should serve his sentence in a state prison.

If he receives a life sentence, Powell could be eligible for parole after 12 years with good behavior. Parole for an offender serving a life sentence in Maryland requires the approval of the governor, which hasn't happened since 1994.

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell lived with his parents in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the Baltimore suburb of Towson. He had no history of violent behavior and took honors-level classes at McDonogh, where annual tuition exceeds $20,000. more

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