In Cold Blood
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
Commentary on the News
SALISBURY, MD. — The violent invasion of the home of Donald G. “Donnie” Mariner on April 16,, 2014 by one or more suspects ended with the death of Mariner and the brutal beating of another resident of the home. Now an arrest has been made in that murder.
The Maryland State Police have released sketchy details about the day of the murder but to date have yet to identify the other victim, fearing for that man’s safety.
What takes a man who has done time for armed robbery, theft and assault to the point of moving from robbery to murder?
What evil lurks in the heart of man is an age-old question.
Some believe that murder can be justified or excused when the perpetrator was born into and reared in a life of poverty and the exact opposite situation — that of being raised in spoiled abject wealth, has been promulgated as rational for violence, DUI homicide and murder.
Fortunately, in most murder cases, the decision to determine guilt and innocence rests with a jury and usually those twelve souls have far more common sense than is available to liberal judges and weak prosecutors.
For a jury which will convene in the murder trial of Paul A. Tatem Jr., the chore will be to assess the evidence brought by the State and to consider the facts presented to them.
What the public seeks is accountability and security. When the safety of citizens in their own homes is violated by one or more intruders bent on robbery, mayhem and murder, the most immediate solution is for the resident to blast the intruder to the fires of hell at the point of a gun.
That needs to happen more often.
In the event that the killer or killers, as in the case of Donald Mariner’s slaying and the beating of his friend — the apprehension, trial and should the case end in conviction — the logical conclusion would be for a public execution.
But Maryland has become too civilized for a hanging on the courthouse lawn.
Now a convicted killer sits in a prison cell and sometimes in as few as ten years, astonishingly, is released back to freedom in the same community in which he committed murder.
This is the circumstance of the greatly enhanced free society that has evolved in the State of Maryland.
According to the information available at this point from the Maryland State Police and court records, Paul Andrew Tatem Jr. has a Public Defender.
This isn’t the first time Tatem has had a Public Defender.
On Dec. 13, 2007, Tatem was defended by Assistant Public Defender Mary S. Riley of Hagerstown.
On Oct. 15, 2007, Tatem was accused of assaulting a person while he was incarcerated at the Department of Corrections in Hagerstown in an incident which took place on August 28, 2007.
Charges of reckless endangerment and having a concealed deadly weapon were dropped in a plea agreement arranged with the Washington County States Attorney and Riley.
The prison sentence Tatem was already serving had an extra eighteen months added on for this guilty plea. Court records do not reflect whether the person assaulted was another inmate or a guard.
Ten years prior Tatem was charged with armed robbery on Sept. 4, 1997.
On March 22, 2002, Tatem was charged in District Court of Wicomico County with fourteen counts of armed robbery, assault, reckless endangerment, handgun in commission of a felony and robbery. He was jailed in the Wicomico County jail pending trial in Circuit Court. The Public Defender in Wicomico County was listed as his attorney.
On July 28, 2014, Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Beckstead order the secret status of charges against Tatem to be removed.
Tatem’s charges include eighteen counts of murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a person with a felony conviction, theft of a motor vehicle, theft of $1,000 to $10,000, first degree assault, wearing a dangerous weapon with an intent to injure; second degree assault, attempted first and second degree murder, first degree assault.
The charges were brought by Trooper Sabrina Metzger for the State of Maryland with Ella Disharoon listed as the prosecuting attorney for the Wicomico County States Attorney’s Office.
The real story of the brutal murder of Donald Gray Mariner is in the life of Paul Tatem over the past ten years and the inability of the courts and prosecutors to protect the people of Maryland and perpetrated the existence of this defendant on the streets, free to seek his next victim.
What happened after his 2002 conviction for armed robbery and assault while in prison ten years earlier?
On May 15, 2002 a criminal information against Tatem was filed by the Wicomico County States Attorney.
Joseph F. Schanno of the Office of Public Defender stepped forward to represent Tatem, who that date was in the Wicomico County jail.
A long and twisted trail through the Maryland Courts from Wicomico County to the Court of Special Appeals to the Court of Appeals finally landed on the bench of Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge Davis on March 28, 2013.
The Judge, after all of the filings, motions, appeals, and decisions that placed the charges of armed robbery at his court, sentenced Tatem to twenty years in prison with eight years suspended and twelve years to be served.
Tatem was given credit for 4,019 days he had served already. That meant that he was given credit for a bit more than eleven years he had served in prison. Therefore, Judge Davis ordered supervised probation for three years.
On Sept. 13, 2013 with instructions for “Violence Prevention Initiative” a warrant was issued for Tatem with “No Bond” for violation of probation.
On Oct. 30, 2013, the State of Maryland released Tatem on his own personal recognizance in spite of his record of committing violent crimes and doing so since 1997, even while in prison.
On Feb. 7, 2014, Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Leonard Beckstead ordered that Tatem had been found in violation of the conditions of his probation and that sentencing was deferred until Feb. 13, 2014 in order to allow “Agent Hapner” to be present in court.
At that point, Donald G. Mariner had about two months left to live.
Paul A. Tatem was free to pick and choose his next victim, to plan a robbery, to arm himself with a gun and to kill. He had passed through the doors of the Maryland prison system, had his case appear before both the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and the Maryland Court of Appeals and was represented by a flotilla of Public Defenders.
Over those same twenty years, Mariner was working every day at Chesapeake Nurseries, supporting himself, paying his bills such as the one for the pickup truck police say was stolen from him after he had been murdered by Tatem.
Mariner was an active member of the Salisbury Moose Lodge 654 and his obituary said his fellow members were “like family to him”, in addition to his three children and grandchildren.
Mariner enjoyed watching pro football and auto racing. He likely enjoyed both sports on his television in the home in which he was murdered.
On the day Tatem burst into Mariner’s home and killed him, as he is charged by police, Mariner’s favorite NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon was reported by Yahoo as looking for his first win of the year.
“WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in first place for the second consecutive week after Darlington. He leads second-ranked Matt Kenseth by just one point and third-ranked Carl Edwards by 19 points,” reports Yahoo Sports.
What Mariner didn’t plan on was for a violent and experienced criminal, trained in the criminal arts for the past twenty years to force his way into his world and end his life.
A bench warrant for the arrest of Tatem was issued on July 2, 2014.
Court records note that the warrant was served on July 1, 2014. Now charges have been brought for murder.
Mariner rests in Snow Hill Cemetery while Tatem likely schemes for his next victim upon his next release, not exactly a pipe dream for a convicted criminal in Maryland’s perplexing system of justice.