In Dentist's Brutal Murder, Assistant Testifies Against Hitman She Hired
A dentist is mysteriously murdered in his office. It's the plot of the 1985 whudunit comedy "Compromising Positions," but also the real-life tragedy of Dr. Albert Ro. Six years ago, in Glen Burnie, Md., Ro was stabbed 39 times and beaten until every bone in his face was broken. The murder case lay cold for four long years.
In the movie version, intrepid housewife-turned-reporter Susan Sarandon endeavors to find the truth. But in real life, it was a different, even stranger story. After police uncovered a fingerprint in 2010, the dentist's assistant, Shontay Hickman, confessed to hiring a hitman to kill Ro, reports CBS.
She admitted to embezzling $17,000 from her boss, and paying then-19-year-old Dante Jeter $1,000 to kill Ro because she was terrified of getting caught. A week before the murder, Ro (pictured above) had hired an office worker to go through his records after patients had complained that they were getting billed for payments they'd already made, according to The Baltimore Sun.
In February, Hickman pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison.
But there's a movie twist to the tale. On Wednesday, Hickman testified against Jeter in exchange for a shorter sentence of 40 years. Jeter is her cousin and was already in jail, serving a 60-year sentence for an unrelated murder that occurred two years after Ro's death.
Hickman told the court that she picked up Jeter and two of his friends, and they all went to Ro's office, where the three men bludgeoned Ro to death as he yelled "Please don't hurt me," "Take whatever you want," and "Oh, God," reports CBS. Police haven't yet identified the two other men, but Jeter is on trial for first-degree murder among other charges.
Hickman is the state's key witness -- there's no other DNA evidence at the scene, or eyewitnesses to what happened that brutal day in September 2006, so the defense relies on discrediting her. The defense attorneys say that she is simply testifying against Jeter to cut short her jail time.
A bank fraud investigator found, however, that Hickman withdrew money right after the time of the killing.
"I just want to come clean and be over with it, so they can get through it and be done with having to go through this," said Hickman of Ro's family. "I don't want them to have to keep reliving what happened."
Reporting on Hickman's trial in February, The Baltimore Sun described how Ro's family told the court of their suffering. After Jo's death, his wife Susan lost her home and business, and moved in with a friend. His son, Michael, said that he gave up his medical practice out of fear. His other son, James, explained his grief in not having his father there to see him marry. Every holiday, he said, is now a day of mourning.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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