Ocean City Manslaughter Conviction Results In Six-Year Sentence

Ocean City Manslaughter Conviction Results In Six-Year Sentence
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SNOW HILL- A Sparrows Point man convicted on manslaughter charges in November for throwing the fatal punch that claimed the life of another Baltimore County man along Coastal Highway on Memorial Day weekend was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in jail with all but six years suspended following an emotional sentencing hearing in Snow Hill.

In November, a Worcester County Circuit Court jury found Darren Beattie, 22, of Sparrows Point, Md., guilty of manslaughter for his role in the death of Ryan Shupert, 31, of Lutherville, Md. on May 29 in Ocean City. In another case of a fight gone terribly wrong, which has become all too familiar in Ocean City in recent years, Beattie and Shupert were first involved in a verbal argument on a city bus that later turned into a deadly physical altercation.

Beattie threw a single punch to Shupert’s head that ultimately claimed his life. Beattie was taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center following the incident and later declared to be brain dead. Shupert, an organ donor, was kept alive for a few days until his organs could be harvested and was later taken off life support, turning an assault investigation into a homicide investigation.

After a day-and-a-half trial in November, the jury deliberated for about 45 minutes before returning with guilty verdicts for the homicide charge along with the lesser charges including second-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Beattie was back in court on Wednesday for a sentencing hearing.

Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby recommended an outcome within the sentencing guidelines, which called for a maximum of 10 years for the manslaughter conviction. Oglesby recommended a 10-year sentence with something in the neighborhood of five years suspended. After a highly emotional hearing during which the court heard from the victim’s family and Beattie himself, Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Thomas C. Groton sentenced Beattie to 10 years with all but six years suspended, which actually went beyond the recommendation of the prosecution.

Around 2:30 a.m. on May 29, Shupert and his friends were riding a northbound city bus to the area of 130th Street where they were staying for the holiday weekend when they were confronted by Beattie and his group of friends. That interaction spurred a verbal argument on the bus with no shortage of expletives launched between the two groups. According to testimony at trial, Beattie and his group got off the bus at 130th Street and as the verbal altercation escalated, Beattie and his group challenged Shupert and his three friends to get off the bus and fight.

According to testimony, Shupert and his friends wanted no part of a potential fight and continued on the bus until it reached 142nd Street, or near the end of its northerly route, even though it went well past their planned stop. Shupert and his friends then walked back southbound toward Montego Bay when the encountered Beattie and his group again around 136th Street.



According to testimony during trial, Shupert and his group gave Beattie and his group a wide berth and stepped off the sidewalk and onto Coastal Highway to avoid further confrontation. When the verbal argument ensued again, Beattie lunged at Shupert, striking him in the head with a blow that ultimately claimed his life.

During the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Oglesby reiterated some of the events leading up to the fatal altercation.

“We know Mr. Beattie was an aspiring body-builder,” he said. “Mr. Beattie was training his body to be stronger, faster and more powerful. As a result of an encounter on a city bus, a challenge was issued. We learned at trial Mr. Beattie’s group said ‘let’s go, let’s get off the bus and fight’ and we know that challenge was declined. If either group had bravado and felt like they had beaten the other group down, it was Mr. Beattie’s group.”

Oglesby pointed out even after Shupert and his group declined an invitation to fight and stayed on the bus for another 12 blocks or so before getting off at 142nd Street, Beattie and his group ran into them again as they walked back south toward Montego Bay where they were staying.

“Incredibly, an unfortunate second encounter resulted in Mr. Beattie striking Ryan Shuppert with a haymaker, a sucker punch and that strike was heard by a witness several feet away who characterized it as a board cracking,” he said. “That one punch killed Ryan Shuppert.”

During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, the court room was filled with supporters of both Shupert and Beattie on both sides including family and friends and both groups sobbed heavily during the proceedings.

“There is an army of support for Ryan Shuppert is this courtroom today,” said Oglesby. “Every one of them feels like a victim, every one of them feels a loss and every one of them has seen their life change forever.”

For his part, defense attorney James Gitomer characterized the entire incident as a verbal altercation that turned to tragedy by a single punch. Gitomer pointed out a doctor’s testimony at trial characterized the single punch as unfortunately hitting the victim in an area in which he was most vulnerable.

“It was essentially one punch,” he said. “We heard the doctor testify if it had been higher, or if it was lower, or if it had been to the left or the right, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Gitomer referenced a large packet of letters to the judge from Beattie’s family, friends, employers, former teachers and coaches.

“The letters all the say the same thing,” he said. “He was a good student, a good athlete, a good employee a good son and a good friend. He is remorseful. I just want the court to understand that.”

Gitomer said there was nothing in Beattie’s past history to suggest he was a criminal or that he posed any threat to society.

“I don’t think this is a case where you will ever see him back, whatever you decide to do with sentencing,” he said. “It’s not in his character and the record shows that. You will not see him back. It was an unfortunate tragic situation for all involved.”

At that point, Beattie, wearing a dark suit and leg shackles, had an opportunity to address the court and directed his tear-filled comments at the victim’s family and the judge.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity and I’m praying you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” he said. “I had no intention of fighting that night. Today is the most important day in my 21 years and I’m asking for the mercy of the court to give me a chance to show it was a terrible mistake.”

Groton said the case was challenging because one promising young person had died and another had his life changed profoundly.

“This is a difficult case,” he said. “It is obvious to me what a terrific person Ryan Shuppert was and Mr. Beattie’s pre-sentence investigation is not one you would expect to see in a case of this magnitude. It’s a tragedy for two families.”

However, Groton said despite the flowering letters in support of the defendant, the fact remained he threw a single fatal punch that claimed the life of the victim.

“There is a common theme in all of these letters,” he said. “They all refer to Mr. Beattie as not aggressive and a peacemaker. If only he had exhibited any of those characteristics that night, we wouldn’t be here. There were numerous opportunities for this to be dissolved.”

Groton said the individual before him on Wednesday, the same individual portrayed in a huge packet of letters, was nonetheless the same individual responsible for throwing the fatal punch that claimed Shupert’s life.

“I see it as a sucker punch from nowhere,” he said. “I agree Mr. Beattie’s intentions were not to kill Ryan Shuppert, but he struck him with such force that he knocked him out of his shoes. The Mr. Beattie portrayed in these letters is not the same Mr. Beattie involved in this incident that night.”

With that said, Groton sentenced Beattie to 10 years for the manslaughter conviction with all but six years suspended. The second-degree assault and disorderly conduct convictions were merged for the purpose of sentencing. Beattie sobbed uncontrollably during sentencing and supporters on both sides cried and very emotional as they filed out of the courtroom.