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Ex-guard to spend life in prison
Jul 12, 2006 12:00 am
July 7, 2006 – NASHVILLE — The purported leader of a brutal ring of Wilson County jail guards will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.
Patrick Marlowe, who was a sergeant on the jail's now-notorious second shift, was sentenced Thursday to life in a federal penitentiary for charges resulting from the beating death of Walter Steven Kuntz. The 43-year-old Wilson County Jail inmate died after he was beaten inside his cell by Marlowe and fellow ex-Cpl. Gary Hale in January 2003. Hale will begin serving a nine-year sentence for his role in beating Kuntz and other inmates as well as covering up the crimes.
Marlowe's defense attorney Roger Taylor argued his client deserved a lesser sentence, saying Hale delivered the lethal blow, which killed Kuntz.
Taylor also shed some blame on Kuntz himself, saying the outcome could have been different had he not been intoxicated when he entered the jail.
"You ask yourself, would Mr. Marlowe have acted the same if Mr. Kuntz had been sober," Taylor said.
Kuntz had been arrested for driving while intoxicated by Lebanon police, which resulted in his incarceration at the Wilson County Jail.
However, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell wholly rejected Taylor's argument that Marlowe's actions were not equivalent to second-degree murder. Campbell also rejected motions to dismiss sentencing enhancements of obstruction of justice, Marlowe's status as a leader in the jail and restraint of the victim.
"…Mr. Marlowe beat Mr. Kuntz," Campbell said. "Mr. Hale, then, in the view of the court, killed Mr. Kuntz with his bare hands, but Mr. Marlowe allowed Mr. Kuntz to die."
Saying there was not a significant concern of disparity between Hale and Marlowe's sentences, Campbell delivered the sentence. Marlowe stood staring straight ahead, his face appearing devoid of emotion.
In the gallery, his younger brother sobbed and clung to their father, county commissioner and elementary school principal Wendell Marlowe, who sat with his hand over his eyes.
Meanwhile, Patrick Marlowe's wife, Jenny Marlowe, stared at the floor, seemingly in a state of shock. The convicted ex-guard glanced back once at his grieving family as he was led away by federal marshals.
The Kuntz family, even while being reminded of the events that took Walter Kuntz's life, couldn't help but find somewhat of a sense of satisfaction in the life sentence.
With the family posing for the cameras, Kuntz's sister, Tonya Thompson, said the family "got the life sentence we were praying for."
"Now he will be a father behind bars," she said. "… He'll get to see his son grow," adding her brother did not receive the same luxury.
"If it had been anything other than life, justice would not have been served."
Pleading for mercy
Shortly before the sentence was handed down, Marlowe stood before Campbell, his usually stoic face red with emotion and his voice breaking as he pleaded for mercy.
For the first time, he apologized to the Kuntz family,
"The treatment he did receive … he didn't deserve," Marlowe said.
The ex-guard pointed at a lack of training and history of aggressive behavior by prior supervisors.
"If I could change things I would," Marlowe said. " … I would also like to apologize to the other people at the sheriff's department. … I never … intended to commit harm. I was never taught any defense techniques … and how to restrain (inmates). … I probably had five or six superiors … they all took an aggressive attitude toward the inmates."
In between quoting Bible verses, the ex-guard described a shortage of space and manpower at the Wilson County Jail.
"Five people to a shift that was supposed to cover 200 inmates just didn't work," Marlowe said. " … It just wasn't a safe place to work. I was fearful every day for the safety of the officers and myself."
Saying the change in his attitude since his incarceration in January is like "night and day," he said working at the jail changed his personality.
"A bad temper and a negative attitude became a regular part of my personality," Marlowe said.
He pleaded to be shown mercy to be with his wife and young son.
"I have a 2 1/2-year-old son … who needs his daddy," Marlowe said.
Jenny Marlowe also begged the court to show mercy to her husband, saying she and her young son needed him.
"Now he has to see (his father) behind glass," Jenny Marlowe said. "… He bangs on that glass and says, 'I want to hold you, Daddy.'
"…I miss Patrick desperately. …I've never been without him in our eight years together. I've been with him since I was 16."
She described her husband as a man who worked full-time to support the family while she was in college and simultaneously served as a full-time father.
His younger brother Joshua also testified to Patrick Marlowe's character, as did their father, Wendell Marlowe.
The county commissioner said his son was one of his best friends.
"It's hard to believe Patrick was involved," Wendell Marlowe said. "I cannot help but think about what I did wrong as a dad."
Asking for justice
Poles apart in their opinion of the verdict, the Kuntz family sought justice for their son and brother's death.
Thompson said her brother's death has deeply impacted her family.
"My mama, she'll never be the same," Thompson said. "He was her only son … it's been really hard for my family to come to terms with this."
Her voice breaking, Thompson countered the depictions of her brother as an alcoholic. She described Kuntz as a hard-working man who would have particularly enjoyed the recent July 4 holiday.
"I wasn't expecting to be left behind … to have to endure all of this," Thompson said.
She said even though the conspiracy was a group effort, ultimate culpability fell on Marlowe.
"He was the sergeant," Thompson said. "He was responsible for the people on his shift. My brother did not deserve this … there's not a day that goes by that I don't think of my brother … it's sad that my brother's life was the sacrifice that stopped this."
Closing the book?
Marlowe's sentencing is the final act of what has been a tragic melodrama stemming from brutal treatment of inmates at the Wilson County Jail.
However, Marlowe attorney Roger Taylor has said he will appeal the sentence.
A total of eight former Wilson County jail guards now stand guilty of conspiring to beat prisoners or cover up the crimes by falsifying reports or denying medical care to their victims.
Numerous ex-guards testified to Marlowe's penchant and love of beating up inmates, saying he kept a running "knockout list," with the final total apparently standing at 21 inmates.
For his part, Sheriff Terry Ashe said his department "did the right thing all the way through as far as asking for the investigation."
"I'm saddened by the actions of so few employees when there's 150-plus employees doing a great job every day … I guess you could say there's casualties on both sides," Ashe said.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.