Murder for hire defendant found guilty after 20 years

Posted at 9:10 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 21:10:09-05

A man who hired someone to murder his fiancé in Violetville Park in 1997 has been found guilty of first degree murder, two handgun violations, solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Robert D. Harris hired Russell Brill to kill his fiancé Teresa McCleod. He wanted her insurance policy, so the plan was to make the death look like a robbery gone wrong.

Harris took McLeod on a walk through Violetville Park on January 26, 1996, and Brill carried out the plan. He shot Harris in the leg for authenticity and killed McLeod with six shots.

Brill pled guilty to the murder in 1997 and was sentenced to life in prison, with all but 30 years suspended.

Last week was Harris's third trial for the murder of McLeod. The first one happened in 1997 -- and he was found guilty, but the conviction was overturned in 2009 because a judge found that the State didn't say anything about the cooperative agreements of witnesses who testified against Harris.

The next trial was in 2012, and Harris was sentenced to life in prison without parole. That was appealed. The judge gave Harris another trial because the defense wasn't allowed to cross-examine the lead detective about overtime abuse, putting a dent in the detective's overall credibility.

On January 13, 2017, Harris was found guilty yet again.

"I hope this is it for this case," said Assistant State's Attorney Paul O’Connor. "McLeod’s family has certainly been through enough having to participate in three separate trials."

Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she was happy with the outcome.

"Legal experts will tell you that a case tends to get weaker as time passes; so, I’m thankful that the family, the witnesses and the Office of the State’s Attorney remained committed to keeping this man who conspired and carried out this ruthless act accountable," Mosby said. "Hopefully this verdict will bring closure to a family that has withstood this horrific ordeal for more than 2 decades."

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