WASHINGTON — A D.C. man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for what the judge called a brutal murder in Montgomery County, Maryland, last year.
Kwasi Sadler, of Northeast, pleaded guilty last May to first-degree murder in the killing of 72-year-old Linda Johnston in her house in Wheaton between July 31 and Aug. 1 of last year. Prosecutors said he had cased the house while helping a friend move out of the house’s basement apartment shortly before.
Johnston’s body was discovered by police on a welfare call Aug. 3. She was wrapped in a sheet on her bed, with blood spattered around the room — indication of a struggle, court documents reported.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Wednesday that Sadler would be eligible for parole in 15 years, but that “very few, if any, people get paroled on their first eligibility date.”
McCarthy said Judge Robert Greenberg called the murder “one of the most brutal he’d seen … and I don’t disagree.”
McCarthy added that Sadler had tried to “get out of the plea” he had entered by saying he was on PCP at the time of the killing, but later in the hearing entered a statement that he hadn’t been on PCP for at least three months before the murder.
“Judge Greenberg made short work of that shift,” McCarthy said. Sadler, he added, “did not take responsibility for the killing. And it was a savage killing.”
Johnston lived independently, McCarthy said, and Sadler found this out when he helped his friend move. “He got the lay of the land, and recognized that she was, I guess, what he thought was an easy mark.”
While Montgomery County is “a safe community,” McCarthy said, adding that “this kind of violence against seniors is very rare,” the sense of security that allows older residents to live alone is important.
He described Johnston as “a vibrant woman, active in her church, still working a job, retired federal employee living independently … that’s something we have to be very careful to maintain.”
That’s why the sentencing was so important: “It does speak to our desire to make sure that our seniors receive the kind of protection under the law that they should have.”
Prosecutors said in May that Sadler broke into the house to steal Johnston’s car and killed her after she confronted him. They quote him as saying “I don’t know how I went from stealing cars to murder” in a police interview.
Sadler was seen on surveillance video in the days after the murder, driving Johnston’s car and using her credit card at various stores. He also pleaded guilty to home invasion, burglary, auto theft and unauthorized use of a credit card.
WTOP’s Mark Lewis contributed to this report.