ANNAPOLIS – An Allegany County man sentenced to two concurrent life sentences for the murder of his former live-in girlfriend had one dropped Friday by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
The court ruled that sentencing Robert Dennis Delzell to two sentences for one death violated the state’s double jeopardy laws.
Delzell remains in jail for stabbing Debbie Minnicks to death in January 1994 in her Cumberland home.
According to court documents, Delzell entered the house of Minnicks and her husband and began an argument. During the argument, Delzell stabbed both of them several times. Harry Minnicks survived the attack and later recovered fully.
Delzell was sentenced last year by an Allegany County jury for first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder, assault and burglary in connection with the crime.
Delzell appealed, claiming that it is illegal to sentence someone to separate first-degree murder convictions for just one death.
Prosecutors conceded that the separate sentences should be vacated, but asked to have one of the murder convictions upheld.
Judges Theodore Bloom, Arrie Davis and Glenn Harrell agreed with the appeal and struck down the felony murder sentence.
The judges cited a 1985 decision in which the Court of Special Appeals ruled that “multiple prosecutions or punishments for different homicide offenses, based on the slaying of one person, are generally precluded.”
In the Delzell opinion, the judges upheld both the premeditated murder and burglary convictions.
“We see nothing amiss in sentencing [Delzell] for both first-degree premeditated murder and for burglary, as the factual elements to be proven … are essentially independent of each other,” the judges wrote. A spokesman in the state Attorney General’s Office said that the office had not received the opinion and could not comment. Delzell’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. -30-