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Mary Catherine KOONTZ

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 19, 2009
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1950
Victim profile: Ronald G. Koontz, 66 (her estranged husband)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38-caliber revolver)
Location: Glen Arm, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on August 9, 2010
 
 
 
 
 
 

Woman sentenced to life without parole in murder of husband

Koontz apologizes to daughter, 17, she was convicted of trying to kill

By Nick Madigan - The Baltimore Sun

August 10, 2010

A former Baltimore County teacher was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole for murdering her estranged husband, despite a defense plea that she receive a lenient sentence because of her psychological problems.

Mary C. Koontz, 60, her right arm shaking slightly, said nothing when the sentence was pronounced, her expression as empty as it had been for most of an 11-day trial that ended last month. She was convicted of killing Ronald G. Koontz, a former Towson High wrestling coach and county schools administrator who was shot four times on June 19, 2009, and of the attempted murder of their teenage daughter.

But shortly before Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger issued her sentence, Koontz turned to face the girl she once tried to kill.

"I want you to know I am so very sorry," she said, looking directly at 17-year-old Kelsey, the youngest of her three children, in the Towson courtroom. "You deserve nothing but goodness in your life."

Then, as the defendant, her ankles shackled, sat down to hear her sentence pronounced, Kelsey raised her hand and gave her a little goodbye wave.

In addition to the sentence on the first-degree murder charge, Koontz, a former English teacher at Sparrows Point High School, was given a second life term for the attempted murder of Kelsey, and 20 years each on two weapons charges. Those sentences will run concurrently with the term in the murder count.

Bollinger agreed to the defense's request that he recommend Koontz be evaluated for admission to the Patuxent Institution, a maximum-security correctional facility in Jessup that focuses on providing psychotherapeutic treatment for violent offenders.

The jury in her trial rejected the defense's contention that Koontz was insane and suffering from so-called dissociative disorders and therefore did not understand the gravity of her actions.

Nevertheless, her lawyer, Richard M. Karceski, asked the judge Tuesday to consider Koontz's long history of emotional fragility when deciding her sentence. "It was real, it was there, and it contributed to Mrs. Koontz's actions," he said. "Mrs. Koontz's ticket to her destination began long ago, since she was a child."

Karceski said his client's disorders remained untreated for years and "began to fester and grow worse." The final straw came when, her marriage in disarray, she was ejected from the family's home in November 2007, he said. Forced into an uneasy exile in a condominium on Marco Island, Fla., Koontz called her husband and daughter as many as 30 times a day, often delivering obscenity-laden harangues, many of which were played for the jury.

Ron Koontz's actions in separating himself from his wife of two decades, Karceski said, had "created a chasm" and caused her disorders to worsen.

"He could have handled it differently," the lawyer said. "He perhaps didn't realize the gravity of the situation. Mary Koontz became more broken and less rational in her isolation."

Arrested in the killing of her husband whom she ambushed after sneaking into the house they had shared in Glen Arm with a key she had kept Koontz told a doctor that she "couldn't take it anymore," her lawyer told the judge.

Karceski conceded that, no matter how rejected his client might have felt, "you don't go out and commit murder, and shoot at your daughter and try to kill her."

In the courtroom's front row, Kelsey and her half brother, Joby Luca Mary Koontz's son by an earlier marriage turned away from Karceski as he sought to explain to them that, for legal reasons, their mother had been unable to apologize during the trial. At that point, Deputy State's Attorney Robin S. Coffin, who prosecuted the case, asked the judge to prevent Karceski from addressing the defendant's children, but Bollinger dismissed her objection.

Karceski continued by insisting that his client was very remorseful for what she had done, and bore no malice toward anyone.

"She does not blame," Karceski said. "She does not despise."

In her own remarks to the judge, Kelsey, reading from a prepared statement, said her heart had been "completely broken" by the death of her 67-year-old father. She described him "blubbering like a baby" when she passed her driving test, doing a back flip off the diving board into their pool as the first jump every summer, wrapping batteries in Christmas paper with a "little clue" as to what might be inside.

"I still have my dad's number saved in my phone," Kelsey said. "Only his name has changed from 'Dad' to 'Dad-I-miss-you.' I know this is silly, but sometimes, when I'm really missing him, I'll press 'send' just to hear the sound of the ring. I feel like maybe, by some miracle, he just might answer."

Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Kelsey, who will soon begin her first semester at an out-of-state college, told reporters that she was excited to "move on with my life" and put her mother's trial behind her. She said it had been "really empowering for me to be able to speak my mind" in the courtroom.

She added that she was comforted by the notion that her mother is unlikely to ever be free. The alternative, she said, was "scary." Asked about her mother's apology, Kelsey said she had been unimpressed.

"I've lived with her and I know how she is," Kelsey said. "Bad things can happen to people, but I'm not going to get down about it and ruin other people's lives."

She said that her mother had neglected her responsibility to seek help for herself. "It's possible," Kelsey said, "to make sure you come out on top and be a better person."

 
 

Jury finds woman guilty of murder in death of estranged husband

Defense for Koontz argued she was not criminally responsible due to mental illness

By Nick Madigan - The Baltimore Sun

July 08, 2010

A Baltimore County jury on Thursday found a 60-year-old woman guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her estranged husband in Glen Arm.

Mary C. Koontz was charged in the June 19, 2009, killing of Ronald G. Koontz and with the attempted murder of her daughter, Kelsey, who was 16 at the time.

Koontz offered an insanity defense -- essentially asking the jury to find that she was not responsible because she was mentally ill. The jury rejected that argument. She was also convicted of first-degree attempted murder for firing toward her daughter, now 17, but the girl was uninjured.

Seated in the front row of the courtroom Thursday, Kelsey held the hands of two women, one of whom is her sister-in-law, the wife of her half-brother. When the last of the verdicts were announced, indicating that Koontz had been declared criminally responsible, Kelsey and her sister-in-law, Beth Luca, burst into tears.

Deputy State's Attorney Robin S. Coffin, who prosecuted the case, hugged Kelsey and other family members, and then went to the judge's chambers with Richard M. Karceski, the defense attorney, to set a sentencing date for Aug. 10. Coffin had asked Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger to schedule the sentencing before Kelsey departs for college out of state in mid-August.

"We're relieved," Kelsey said after the verdicts were announced.

The county state's attorney, Scott Shellenberger, read a statement on behalf of the Koontz family outside the courthouse.

"We are grateful for the diligence and patience of the jury in their pursuit for truth and justice," he said. "Ronald Koontz was a loving father, loyal friend and dedicated Baltimore County employee. We are offended by the defense's unyielding attacks on Ronald Koontz's character. We do not, however, feel the need to defend his honor because he left his legacy in the students he taught, the children he raised and the people he inspired."

Two days before his death, Ron Koontz attended a party in honor of his retirement after more than 30 years in the county schools system, mostly as an administrator.

 
 

Woman accused of killing husband testifies

Former teacher calmly describes Glen Arm man's murder, says she was 'in a fog'

By Nick Madigan - The Baltimore Sun

June 29, 2010

Calmly, and in a clear if subdued voice, a 60-year-old murder defendant told a jury Tuesday that she could not fathom how her .38-caliber revolver ended up in her grasp on the morning her husband was killed, and said she "never heard the gun."

"I saw myself like I was in a movie," Mary C. Koontz said to the Baltimore County Circuit Court jury that has been hearing the case against her since last Wednesday. She acknowledged buying and learning to use the gun, and checking it in with her luggage on flights to Baltimore from her condominium in Florida, where she was living after her marriage had dissolved.

On June 19, 2009, having returned to Maryland and made her way into the bedroom in Glen Arm she once shared with her husband of 20 years, Ronald G. Koontz, she recalled the scene as though she had been removed from it "from the perspective of the ceiling."

"The next thing I remember is seeing the gun in my hand, and shaking it, like: 'What is this gun doing here?' " she testified. "I was in a fog."

Koontz spent about two hours on the witness stand, the first time she had spoken publicly about the events of that day, when, prosecutors say, she shot her estranged husband four times. Koontz also is accused of firing toward her daughter Kelsey, now 17, but the girl was uninjured.

The defendant's appearance as a witness, rare in a murder trial, was part of a defense strategy to persuade jurors that her actions were due to a disturbed mind and that she is not responsible for the crimes. She answered questions slowly and precisely, recalling intricate details of her life all the way back to her childhood, but her memory grew vague when asked to describe the morning of the shootings.

On cross-examination, she told prosecutor Robin C. Coffin that her real intent was to kill herself, but could not explain how her husband died. She said she barely recalled leaving her Towson hotel some time after 5 a.m. and driving the six miles or so to her former home. But she admitted that she must have packed her gun for the trip, since she always had it loaded by her side as she slept.

"Everything was really unclear," she said. "I just remember ending up at the stream behind our house."

The stream, she went on, held special significance because she and her husband had sometimes prayed there after building the four-bedroom house on Manor Springs Court in 1990. She considered the water to have healing properties.

On the morning of the killing, Koontz said, she "prayed a little bit" at the stream. She did not recall leaving her rental car there or her gun case on the front passenger seat, where police later found it. Nor did she recall carrying the weapon as she walked to the house, but she remembered letting herself in with a key she had kept since leaving 19 months earlier.

Koontz did not attach importance to the fact that her shoes were found by the front door, a detail that prosecutors took to mean she intended to sneak inside without being heard. "I always took my shoes off before I stepped on the white carpet," she told the jury. Then, she went on, "I think I went upstairs and walked into our bedroom and I saw Ron standing at the bottom of the bed."

At that point, under gentle questioning from defense attorney Richard M. Karceski, she described seeing herself as a movie character, someone whose actions she was merely observing. Koontz said nothing about firing the gun at either her husband or daughter. But under cross-examination she did not dispute Kelsey's testimony last week that her mother had crouched into a two-handed firing stance before pulling the trigger.

Koontz recalled going into her daughter's room, but it looked very distorted, she said.

After leaving the room and closing the door behind her the girl testified earlier that she immediately locked it and called police Koontz went into her daughter's bathroom, where, she said, she "lost consciousness" and came around to find herself lying on the floor with her husband on top of her.

"He said, 'I've always loved you,' " the defendant recalled. "I said, 'I've always loved you.' The next thing, he's banging my head on the door frame. I don't understand he just said he loved me."

Koontz then described struggling for the gun, and her desire to use it to kill herself. She said she and her husband "slid down the steps together, side by side," grappling for the weapon on the grass outside the house.

Police officers ran up to the couple and disarmed her. The officers testified last week that both Mary and Ron Koontz were covered in blood. She was arrested, and he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Mary Koontz was initially taken to Franklin Square Hospital Center, where she was questioned by detectives, and eventually to Clifton T. Perkins State Hospital, a maximum-security forensic psychiatric facility, where she spent six weeks.

 
 

Daughter of slain Glen Arm man describes path to shooting

Woman faces first-degree murder charges in shooting death of estranged husband, attempted murder of teenage daughter

By Nick Madigan - The Baltimore Sun

June 23, 2010

For years, the Koontz family Ron, Mary and their daughter, Kelsey was a "pretty close-knit" group. Mary Koontz made "awesome sandwiches" for her husband and welcomed her daughter's friends into their "quiet suburban home," Kelsey, now 17, said in court Wednesday.

"I could see the love between my parents," Kelsey Koontz said. "My childhood was fine. It was awesome."

But in a few short years, she went on, the family's harmony dissolved into mistrust and recriminations, her parents separated, and Mary Koontz went to live in Florida. A year ago, after being gone for 19 months, she returned with a silver revolver and sneaked into her former home in Glen Arm while her estranged husband and daughter slept, prosecutors say. Once inside, they say, she shot her husband four times as he lay in bed and then went into Kelsey's room and fired at the girl. The bullet missed its mark.

During the first day of testimony in Mary C. Koontz's trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court, where she faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and five other counts, the 60-year-old defendant occasionally dabbed at her eyes and nose with a tissue as her daughter sat in the witness box a few feet away and described the family's dissolution.

The worst of it began, she said, when she entered the 7th grade, got involved with a soccer league, made new friends and started spending a lot of time away from home. Her father accompanied her to matches, she said, and her mother did not. Gradually, Kelsey told the jury, her mother felt more and more alienated from her husband and daughter, both socially and emotionally, and devoted much of her time to a son from a previous marriage who had been diagnosed with an emotional disorder.

"She'd get mad at me for putting so much into soccer," Kelsey said. There was anger and tension, she said, and it spilled into everyday life. "She called me a brat and a terrible daughter."

Later, after her parents' separation, Mary Koontz called her daughter and estranged husband repeatedly, and often abusively, from the family's condominium on Marco Island. In one invective-filled voice-mail message, played Wednesday for the jury, the defendant told her daughter that Ron Koontz had abused her sexually as a child, and suggested that father and daughter were in an intimate relationship now that she was no longer around.

"Your father can't control his urges," the defendant told Kelsey during the call, 11 days before the fatal shooting of her husband, a former teacher and wrestling coach at Towson High School who later became an administrator in the Baltimore County school system.

"You win," Mary Koontz went on in the phone message. "You have my husband, you have my dog."

No such sexual abuse or intimacy ever occurred, Kelsey said, and it was "disgusting" to think otherwise.

Richard M. Karceski, the defense attorney, recalled on cross-examination that, shortly after his client's arrest on June 19, 2009, Kelsey Koontz said she "hated" her mother.

"She had just shot my dad and tried to kill me," the witness replied, her eyes filling with tears.

"Do you hate her now?" Karceski asked.

"That's a really complex question," she responded. "How do you define hate?"

Karceski, who made clear his intent to portray his client as legally insane, tried to get the witness to define another word "crazy" and suggested that Mary Koontz "wasn't altogether running on all cylinders."

"If you're asking me, do I think my mom knew what she was doing, I'd say yes," Kelsey replied. "There's something wrong with my mom, but I think that you can have a mental disability and still know what you're doing."

he defense attorney brought up instances in which the girl mentioned that her mother was mentally ill and needed help. Karceski asked Kelsey why she no longer felt that way.

"I don't think there there's any help to fix what she has," Kelsey replied.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, the defense attorney compared his client to John W. Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. Karceski reminded the jury that Hinckley's act was a misguided attempt to woo the actress Jodie Foster, a factor that led to his being declared not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mary Koontz's act was of a similar order, Karceski said. Both shootings, he went on, were prompted by irrational acts of love.

"This is what we have here," he said. "A love story."

 
 

Years Of Marital Strife End In Fatal Shooting

County School Official's Wife Ordered Held Without Bail

By Nick Madigan - The Baltimore Sun

June 23, 2009

Over the course of some 18 years, Mary and Ron Koontz had, by any definition, a troubled marriage. There were fights and recriminations, they both said, and a great deal of unhappiness.

Finally, in November 2007, Ron Koontz, who had been a teacher and wrestling coach at Towson High School and later became an administrator in the Baltimore County schools system, asked a Circuit Court judge to order his wife evaluated for mental illness because of her "anger and rage," which he said was "becoming more frequent and intensifying."

The petition noted that Mary Koontz had been hospitalized eight years before and that she was still receiving psychiatric treatment. He said that more recently she had begun "hitting me with her fist" and that "my daughter and I live in fear of our safety"- a reference to their teenage girl, Kelsey.

The order was granted, and Mary Koontz, barred from the family's home in Glen Arm by her husband, went to live at their condominium on Marco Island in Florida.

On Friday, she returned. According to Baltimore County police, the 59-year-old woman gained access to the home they had lived in together on Manor Springs Court and made her way to the main bedroom, where she confronted her 66-year-old husband with a gun. He was shot numerous times, police said, but he managed to wrestle her to the ground outside the house and hold her until police officers, summoned by Kelsey, arrived. He later died.

Mary Koontz was charged with first-degree murder and ordered held without bail. On Monday, she was transferred to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.

As the legal process was unfolding, former students posted notes of bereavement on Legacy.com, a Web site that provides a forum for condolences and remembrances.

"I just wanted to say your father was such an inspiration to me while attending Towson High School," Cynthia Burton, who graduated in 1968, wrote in a message for Kelsey. "He made me feel smart for the first time in my life. He stood out from the crowd as a great teacher and kind man."

Dorothy Thornton, a resident of Hampstead who worked with Koontz for 30 years in the school system, told Kelsey she was "the light of your father's life."

But it was his closeness to his daughter that seemed to grate most on Mary Koontz, as she described the family's degeneration in a 10-page letter she wrote in February 2008 to Judith C. Ensor, the Circuit Court judge who three months earlier had granted the order forcing her to be evaluated.

"I am very ill, your honor, but it's not mental illness, like my husband accuses me of," Koontz wrote, noting she suffered several ailments, including fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia, pulmonary hypertension and lupus. "I have been physically and verbally abused for this!"

Mary Koontz described slights by her husband and daughter. "All they did was criticize me," she wrote in longhand. "Every time I tried to correct my daughter, she would say to her dad, 'Mom's acting crazy, Dad!' and he would always side with her!"

She wrote that her difficulties were compounded when her son Christopher Luca - Ron Koontz's stepson - was diagnosed with a disorder that "caused a true crisis in our family." (She has another son, Robert Luca, known as "Joby.")

She said she joined a support group, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, but that her husband and Kelsey reacted by "gossiping" about "what was happening in our home." It was such gossip, she said, that "destroyed our family, not my son's illness."

She described being removed from the house by a police officer after the evaluation order had been granted and being placed in a restricted area, under guard, at Franklin Square Hospital Center. When she was released after 12 hours, a doctor called Ron Koontz to say he could pick her up and his reply was, "She is no longer welcome here," according to his wife's letter.

A death notice published Monday in The Baltimore Sun said Ronald G. Koontz had died "suddenly" June 19. It said he was the father of Kelsey and stepfather of the two boys, but the notice made no mention of Mary Koontz.

 
 


Mary Koontz

 

Mary Koontz shot her husband multiple times in the upper body and despite his gunshot wounds, Baltimore County police say Ronald Gene Koontz, 66, caught up to his wife, Mary Koontz, and held her on the ground in the front lawn until officers arrived.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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