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One suspect in 2017 killing of Fed Hill bartender pleads guilty, two others to go to trial

Jury selection begins Monday, barring further plea
Posted at 7:14 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 23:18:17-05

BALTIMORE — One of three suspects charged in the November 2017 late night murder of a bartender at a Locus Point gas station pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

The three suspects, 21-year-old Tivontre Gatling-Mouzon of Richmond, Va., 38-year-old Tonya Hayes of Atlanta, and 24-year-old Marquese Winston, of Richmond, were arrested in December of 2017 for the murder of Alexander Wroblewski Jr., a popular bartender in Federal Hill.

On Nov. 14, 2017 Wroblewski was walking home from work when he stopped at the Royal Farms in the 1400 block of Lawrence Street, where Lawrence intersects with Key Highway. Wroblewski entered the store to buy a late night snack, when the three suspects allegedly followed him out and attempted to rob him, shooting him once and then fleeing the scene. Hayes and Winston were arrested in Atlanta on Nov. 15, with Gatling-Mouzon being picked up two days later.

All three were presented with plea deals in court by Baltimore Assistant State’s Attorney Sheryl Atkins. Gatling-Mouzon was the lone defendant to accept his deal, pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and in so doing agreeing to testify if needed in upcoming trials. He accepted the potential sentence of 20 years in prison, with all but eight years suspended, and an additional five years of probation. His sentencing was postponed until after the trials of his co-defendants, as his plea is dependent on future testimony.

In articulating the details of the case against Gatling-Mouzon, Atkins laid out the state’s understanding of events from the night of Wroblewski’s murder.

Wroblewski was known to the clerks at the Royal Farms store, as he frequently stopped there on his way home from work, Atkins said. Some of the employees were worried for him since they saw he was visible intoxicated that evening. After making a purchase at the counter, Wroblewski walked out the door, holding it open with his back for Hayes to enter. She and Winston proceeded into the store as if shopping, but Winston quickly exited the store, turning to look to his left, the direction in which Wroblewski headed after leaving. Winston then went to the car and could be seen on surveillance footage reaching into the backseat, where Gatling-Mouzon was sitting. Footage shows Winston fumbling around for an object. Winston then steps back from the car and can be seen having a conversation with Hayes. He then walks off in the direction of Wroblewski.

At that point, Gatling-Mouzon could be seen getting out of the car, Atkins continued. He and Winston put their hoods up and continued towards Wroblewski. Hayes can be seen getting into the car and slowly driving in the same direction her co-defendants were heading. Video shows Winston approach Wroblewski and a struggle ensued. Eventually a shot was fired, Atkins said, striking Wroblewski in the abdomen. Gatling-Mouzon and Winston then jump into the car Hayes was driving and the trio fled the scene. Gatling-Mouzon was eventually dropped off in Richmond, with Winston and Hayes continuing south to Atlanta.

Upon arrest, Gatling-Mouzon said he was aware of the shooting and said that Winson had held he and Hayes at gun point while he committed the crime, but in September Gatling-Mouzon admitted he lied in initial interviews, Atkins said. He confirmed he saw Winston take a gun out from under the passenger seat, and that he saw Winston argue with and then shoot Wroblewski. Gatling-Mouzon then identified the car the three were in, a silver Chevrolet Cruz, and Winston and Hayes as his traveling partners.

Atkins said it was the state’s position that by getting out of the car, putting up his hood, walking towards Wroblewski, getting back into the car to flee, not reporting the shooting, and lying to police in his original statement, he participated in a conspiracy to commit the crime, whether an open dialogue and agreement about the robbery was made or not.

“We don’t know the words, but we certainly know the action,” Atkins said.

Facing the charge of murder in the first-degree, Winston was originally offered a plea deal of a life sentence, with all but 70 years suspended. Upon further discussion with his counsel, Atkins said the state amended that deal to life with all but 60 years suspended. Winston rejected the offer, though Atkins said he has until 9:30 a.m. Monday to reconsider.

Hayes was offered a sentence of 20 years with all but 15 suspended, as well as five years probation, for pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery, but she also rejected the plea offer. Atkins did not afford her the chance to continue to mull the offer until Monday.

Hayes’ defense attorney, Natalie Fineger, attempted to have the plea consideration extended for her client, arguing it was not until 6:50 p.m. Thursday night that the state made an offer, giving Hayes fewer than 24 hours to consider such a deal. Judge Yvette Bryant said that she had given all of the defendants’ attorneys enough time to discuss deals with their clients that the extension would not be granted by her. Atkins held fast on Hayes needing to plea Friday.

The case will proceed to trial, beginning with jury selection Monday, barring any sudden changes or acceptance of plea by Winston.

Wroblewski’s family did not wish to comment after Friday’s proceedings.

“We’re here to get justice for our son, Alex,” Wroblewski’s father, Alex Wroblewski Sr. said in a brief statement to media gathered outside the courtroom.

“The family want’s justice. They got a little bit of that today,” said Thiru Vignarajah, a former Baltimore City prosecutor who recently ran for Baltimore City State’s Attorney. His father taught with Alex Wroblewski Sr. at Frederick Douglass High School in the 1980s, and the families remain close, Vignarajah said. He was in attendance Friday in support of the Wroblewskis. Roughly two dozen people filled the same side of the courtroom where the family sat.

“You can see [Alex Jr.’s] legacy in all the people that were here, not just to stand up for him and make sure that justice is done, but also to make sure that his legacy lives strong,” Vignarajah said. “He was an incredible force in the community. He was beloved by his friends, by his co-workers. This is a man who represented the best of Baltimore, and he was taken from us long before his time. For a measure of justice to be found in a court room, I think brings some comfort to the family and the friends.”