SNOW HILL – An Ocean City man who just last week had the charges dropped against him for his alleged part in the beating death of a Berlin teenager in May pleaded guilty this week to conspiracy to commit theft for an unrelated case dating back to last year and was sentenced to one year in jail.
Eric Ronald Hewitt, 19, of Ocean City, appeared in Circuit Court in Snow Hill on Tuesday to face a wide variety of charges related to the break-in of a north Ocean City residence last May. Hewitt pleaded guilty to an amended count of felony conspiracy to commit theft over $500 and was sentenced to one year in the Worcester County Jail.
Just last week, prosecutors dropped two, second-degree assault charges against Hewitt, who was arrested in connection to the beating death of a Berlin teenager in the Decatur Farms community in May. The state’s attorney’s office dropped the charged against Hewitt in that case when his connection to the murder could not be established, but he still faced a myriad of charges related to the burglary of a residence on North Heron Drive last May.
On May 13 of last year, an OCPD officer on routine patrol noticed a home on North Heron Drive with the garage door open and the window to the door broken. The officer noticed liquor bottles strewn across the floor of the garage and an interior door to the residence standing open. An investigation revealed the house was vacant, but there was substantial evidence it had been ransacked.
Two 42-inch plasma televisions, one in the living room and one in the master bedroom, had been damaged and appeared to have been pulled from their wall mountings. Several drawers and cabinets throughout the house were left standing open with their contents strewn about the floor.
An investigation outside the residence turned up empty liquor bottles and beer bottles lying in the grass which were consistent with the bottles found in the garage. In addition, two surf boards were found concealed in a grove of trees across the street from the residence. A search of the garage revealed empty wall-mounted surfboard racks.
The officers had plenty of evidence a robbery had taken place, but they still did not have a suspect. A further investigation led police to a parked Ford Crown Victoria parked on the opposite side of the street from the burglarized residence. Inside the vehicle were several cases of beer and more liquor bottles consistent with what was found in the garage. Also found in the vehicle was a boogie board with the victim’s son’s name written on it.
The vehicle was then impounded so crime scene detectives could further investigate it. Around 11 a.m. the next morning, Douglas Ransley, 21, of Berlin, came to police headquarters to inquire about the whereabouts of his car, the Crown Victoria impounded at the burglary scene the night before. Ransley was then arrested and charged with first-, third-, and fourth-degree burglary as well as numerous counts of theft and malicious destruction.
However, investigators knew Ransley had not acted alone and when it came time for his trial in December, prosecutors entered a plea bargain with the suspect in exchange for information about his cohorts in the crime. On Jan. 16, Ransley sat down with OCPD detectives and laid out all of the details about the burglary including the names of his conspirators.
Ransley gave investigators the names of his co-conspirators in the burglary including Hewitt, Ricky Bylan, 20, of Ocean City, and Joshua Ray, 19, also of Ocean City. In December, Ransley pleaded guilty to the lesser third-degree burglary charge in exchange for information about his co-defendants and was sentenced to six months in jail with all but 14 days suspended. Bylan was scheduled to appear with Hewitt this week but had his trial postponed, while Ray’s trial is set for Aug. 12.