HAGERTOWN, Md. (AP) — A man who's been locked up nearly 38 years for his role in the fatal shooting of a western Maryland deputy has served enough time, a judge ruled Friday — but he's not free yet.
Roberto Rezek, 68, of Fairmont, West Virginia, left a Hagerstown courtroom in custody to await proceedings on whether he still owes the state of Pennsylvania six to 12 years for his robbery, assault, theft and reckless endangerment convictions stemming from a 1977 incident in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
Before he could be sentenced for those crimes, Rezek and an accomplice, Richard "Danny" Tichnell, broke into an Oakland, Maryland, army surplus store to steal guns in January 1979. Garrett County Sheriff's Deputy David Livengood interrupted their getaway and was killed by Tichnell in a shootout, according to Tichnell's testimony.
Both were convicted of first-degree murder, and Tichnell died in prison. Rezek was sentenced to life plus 15 years, but his conviction was reversed in 2011 because his trial judge gave improper jury instructions.
On Friday, Rezek pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, averting a retrial. He apologized to Livengood's family, saying he's a reborn Christian with an applied psychology degree that he earned in prison.
"I was a punk and I was a hoodlum," Rezek said. "I went out that night to steal guns and what happened is, a good man died."
Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long said he was impressed by Rezek's progress: "I believe, in essence, justice has been served."
Long ordered a suspended life sentence, with credit for time served, and placed Rezek on five years' supervised probation.
Livengood's brother Edward urged Long to keep Rezek locked up.
"I know he don't want to die in prison," he said. "My brother didn't want to die in the streets."
But afterward, Livengood told reporters, "I guess as long as he does what he's supposed to be doing on the outside, I guess it's OK."