SNOW HILL – A sentencing hearing set for this week for the man accused in the stabbing death of a West Ocean City woman in April was postponed, forcing the convicted murderer to wait two more weeks to find out his fate.
In October, Roberto Antonio Murillo, 29, of West Ocean City, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Cecilia Dea Parker, 56, of Ocean City, but his sentence was delayed pending the outcome of a pre-sentence investigation. Murillo was scheduled to be sentenced this Tuesday, Dec. 23, but the hearing was postponed until Jan. 5.
Murillo formally entered a plea of not guilty in October, but agreed on the statement of facts in the case as part of a plea arrangement between state prosecutors and his attorneys. Circuit Court Judge Theodore Eschenberg then found Murillo guilty of first-degree murder, but did not sentence the convicted murderer that day and instead ordered a pre-sentence investigation for the Honduran national, which is normal protocol in capital cases.
Before accepting Murillo’s plea, Eschenberg, through an interpreter, carefully went through a series of questions to the defendant ensuring he understood what he was pleading to and that he was not coerced or threatened into agreeing to the plea. The judge explained to the defendant he is facing life in prison without the opportunity for parole for at least 15 years and that he would be deported out of the country if and when he was ever released from prison.
During the plea hearing, State’s Attorney Joel Todd read into the record the agree-upon statement of facts including that the victim had been stabbed 21 times. On April 21, Maryland State Police and the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation responded to Parker’s residence in the Mystic Harbor community in West Ocean City for a reported homicide and discovered her body.
According to the statement of facts, Parker hired Murillo to do some landscaping around her residence, and when she returned home from work around 4:30 p.m. on April 20, she saw Murillo outside his residence, across the street from her home, and waved him over so she could make the final payment to him. Murillo then went over to Parker’s house where he obtained a check from the victim for the rest of the work and returned to his own residence.
According to the statement of facts, Parker’s parents and other family members visited her at her home on April 20 and left around 7 p.m. Some time after 7 p.m., Murillo returned to Parker’s home. According to Murillo’s own statement of the events, he returned to Parker’s home when he realized the check she had given him for the landscaping work had not been signed.
According to Murillo’s statement, Parker took the unsigned check and went back toward a bedroom, presumably to get a pen and sign the check. Murillo told police Parker returned and told him to get out or she would call the police and tell them he was trying to rob her.
At this point, a physical altercation broke out between Parker and Murillo, according to police reports, and at some point, Murillo produced a knife and stabbed the victim in the side. The fight continued for several minutes with the victim ultimately succumbing to multiple stab wounds to her front and back.
In brief testimony following the reading of the statement of facts, Todd asserted the pre-meditation element of the first-degree murder charge was met because each and every stabbing of the victim after the initial one was done with malice and intent.
Also during the plea hearing, it came to light how Murillo was ultimately developed as a suspect in the crime. As a matter of routine, detectives in a homicide case often interview neighbors to see if they heard or saw anything, and in this case, those interviews included Murillo, who lived across the street and diagonally from the victim’s home. During that initial interview, it was discovered Murillo was an illegal alien and he was taken to the state police barrack in Berlin for processing on that separate issue.
While Murillo was in custody at the state police barrack, detectives noticed a variety of injuries to his hands and person. His DNA was later discovered at Parker’s home including under the victim’s fingernails. When questioned further, Murillo agreed to talk and ultimately confessed to the crime and laid out the details of the events in what turned out to be a statement of over 180 pages.
In brief testimony following the reading of the statement of facts, Todd asserted the pre-meditation element of the first-degree murder charge was met because each and every stabbing of the victim after the initial one was done with malice and intent. However, Murillo’s attorney E. Scott Collins argued the element of premeditation could not be proven in the case to no avail. After listening to the testimony, Eschenberg found Murillo guilty of first-degree murder.