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Easton man gets life sentence for YMCA murder

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EASTON — The Easton man who stabbed a 72-year-old man in the men’s locker room at the Easton Family YMCA in June will spend the rest of his life in prison for murder.

In a plea agreement, Andre Lamont Price Jefferson, 31, pleaded guilty on Dec. 11 to first-degree murder before Talbot County Circuit Court Judge Stephen H. Kehoe, who sentenced him to life in prison, the maximum possible sentence for his crime.

As part of the plea agreement, the state agreed to drop all other charges against Jefferson in the stabbing death of John Joseph Cassidy of Easton. Those charges included second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, armed robbery, robbery, reckless endangerment, wearing and carrying a concealed weapon and attempted theft of less than $100.

Before receiving his sentence at the hearing, Jefferson apologized to Cassidy’s family. He said people may not think he feels remorse for what he did, but he does.

“I really have been remorseful,” he said. “I really don’t express emotions.”

Jefferson said those who know him know he’s just someone who, “nine times out of 10,” doesn’t “really have a whole lot to say.”

Jefferson didn’t offer a motive for Cassidy’s murder. Jefferson’s adoptive father testified during the hearing he thought Jefferson likely committed the murder because he was experiencing “traumatic shock” after the death of his girlfriend, who died on May 31.

He said Jefferson was “overwhelmed with emotion and snapped out.”

Kisha Petticolas, an attorney for Jefferson, confirmed his adoptive father’s testimony, saying Jefferson’s girlfriend “died suddenly ... of a blood clot” in her leg that went to her heart.

Petticolas asked the judge to consider the “severity” of Jefferson’s grief, and said there was an “underlying mental health (issue) that showed itself on that day.”

She said Jefferson “has shown great remorse ... and has difficulty believing he’s the person who did this.”

The murder occurred just before 8 a.m. June 6. Jefferson stabbed, or cut, Cassidy multiple times on his face, neck, chest, abdomen, back, arm and hand while in the men’s locker room.

Easton Police officers who responded found Jefferson on the lobby floor and Cassidy on the locker room floor.

Jefferson had blood on his clothes, and officers recovered a knife with what appeared to be blood on it from his pants pocket, according to charging papers.

Officers also recovered “blood-soaked” cash in Jefferson’s pocket, which they determined belonged to Cassidy and had been taken out of his wallet by Jefferson after the stabbing, according to Deputy State’s Attorney Ellen Grunden’s statement of the facts.

Grunden said witnesses to the stabbing described that Jefferson was “yelling gibberish” after the altercation, and he claimed Cassidy had tried to stab him. Jefferson then “fell to the floor and acted as if he was convulsing,” she said.

Jefferson eventually got up to leave the building, but was stopped by one of the witnesses, who was able to hold Jefferson there until police arrived, according to witness testimony.

Both Jefferson and Cassidy were taken to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton, where Cassidy died of his injuries, police said.

Jefferson is not a member of the YMCA and staff there did not recall seeing him at the facility in the past.

Before the attack at the YMCA, Jefferson had entered Easton Middle School, which is located across Peachblossom Road from the YMCA, according to school officials. Students had not yet arrived on campus when Jefferson was there.

“A teacher on duty at the entrance and a security officer escorted the adult from the building where upon he left the property,” Talbot County Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Griffith wrote in a June 6 email to Easton Middle School parents, according to a screenshot of the email posted on Facebook.

When Grunden brought up Jefferson’s presence at the school, saying that it “was full of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders” and pointing out that “the YMCA was not his first choice of location,” Jefferson’s defense team objected.

Tamara Stofa, an attorney for Jefferson, objected to Grunden’s saying that the school was “full of children” because children had not yet arrived at the school that morning, she said. Stofa said Jefferson “was not violent” and “was told to leave (the school property), and he did.”

Police arrested Jefferson immediately following the incident at the YMCA, and he was held at the Talbot County Detention Center during the months leading to his sentencing, according to court documents.

“We have no idea why this happened,” Grunden said, saying Cassidy was a “random victim,” and she didn’t know what compelled Jefferson to commit this “breathtaking attack.”

The attack not only affected Cassidy’s family, it “affected the entire community (because of) where he chose to do it,” Grunden said, adding that the Easton YMCA is a “place of importance to this community.”

Grunden also read testimony from Cassidy’s wife Doralice Cassidy, who said she “stands for personal forgiveness,” but said she wanted justice.

After issuing Jefferson’s life sentence, Kehoe said to Jefferson that the question of why he committed this “particularly brutal murder” was “occupying the minds of everyone in the courtroom, except yours.”

Kehoe said he felt for Cassidy’s family because Jefferson took Cassidy away from them.

“If I could bring (Cassidy) back, I would,” the judge said.

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