Berlin Man Faces Life In Prison After Plea

SNOW HILL — A Berlin man, shot by Ocean City police last December during a stabbing attack on his estranged wife, faces life in prison today after essentially admitting to attempted first-degree murder during a hearing last week.

Marvin Jefferson Mitchell, 28, appeared in court last Friday for a motions hearing in advance of his trial on first-degree murder and other charges related to the Dec. 20 incident. During the motions hearing, Mitchell entered an Alford Plea to attempted first-degree murder and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered.

With an Alford Plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to successfully prosecute the case. The attempted first-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Sentencing has been set for Sept. 16.

Shortly after 11 a.m. last Dec. 20, 2010, Ocean City police officers responded to a 911 call for a domestic dispute on 82nd Street. When officers arrived on the scene, they discovered a suspect, later identified as Mitchell, armed with a knife and attacking a female victim, later identified as Shanna Mitchell, 27, also of Berlin, his estranged wife.

According to police reports, after repeated orders to drop the knife were not heeded by Mitchell, an officer was forced to shoot the suspect in order to end the attack on his estranged wife. Both the victim and the suspect survived. The victim suffered a stab wound as a result of the attack and was treated at the scene by Ocean City fire department paramedics before being transferred to PRMC in Salisbury. Mitchell was also treated at the scene for a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was also taken to PRMC.

The following day, the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI) charged Mitchell with attempted first- and second-degree murder, first- and third-degree burglary, first- and second-degree assault, possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, reckless endangerment and violation of a protective order.

Just five days prior to the incident, Mitchell had been arrested and charged with second-degree assault for an unrelated incident. On the same day, Mitchell’s estranged wife obtained a temporary protective order against him, prohibiting him from contacting her or entering her residence. The temporary restraining order also ordered Mitchell to stay away from her place of employment.

Meanwhile, the officer who was forced to shoot Mitchell, 11-year veteran Corp. Richard Wawrzeniak, was placed on administrative leave as part of the standard protocol for a police officer involved in a shooting incident while the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit investigated the incident.

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, following the incident, praised Wawrzeniak and the other officers on the scene for remaining calm during the otherwise dicey situation.

“To come upon a person actively stabbing another person with children around, it took all of their mental fortitude to act appropriately and every one of our officers did exactly what they were trained to do, even though it obviously doesn’t happen very often around here,” she said.

At the time, DiPino said she thought it had been almost 10 years since an OCPD officer was forced to discharge his or her weapon in the line of duty and an archive search appears to bear that out.

Back in August of 1992, an OCPD officer shot and killed a suspect outside a Boardwalk motel moments after the suspect had just shot and killed another man with a shotgun.
In that incident, an OCPD officer mounted on horseback fatally shot the suspect, identified as John W. Taylor, 38, of Salisbury, once in the chest at around 2:40 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1992, after responding to the scene after hearing a shotgun blast. The officer found a victim lying in a pool of blood in a walkway and reported observing Taylor holding a gun on a second individual in what was reported at the time as a robbery attempt.

Taylor apparently fled the scene on foot after seeing the mounted OCPD officer, who pursued the suspect. According to reports of the incident, despite the officer’s warnings to halt, Taylor, who was armed with a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun, turned around and advanced toward the officer with the shotgun in an apparent position to fire.