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Crime and Punishment

Potomac 2003 Year in Review

Murderer Sentenced: Angered by his wife's infidelity, Potomac gynecologist Zakaria Oweiss, 58, murdered his wife Marianne Oweiss, 49, on Aug. 15, 2001 by hitting her head repeatedly with a rubber mallet in the basement of their Kentsdale Drive home. Marianne Oweiss was unconscious in seconds, dead in minutes, the medical examiner said.

Zakaria Oweiss' defense strategy was to blame his oldest son Omar, then 21, who was upstairs asleep with his girlfriend the morning his mother was murdered.

"Reprehensible," said Katherine Winfree, deputy state's attorney, of the defense strategy.

"Morally depraved," said Douglas F. Gansler, state's attorney for Montgomery County.

"Really disgusting," wrote Dr. Thomas Breinlich, Marianne's brother who lives in Germany, via e-mail.

Unsuccessful, said a 12-member Montgomery County Circuit Court jury on March 14, 2003, 18 months after the murder.

Circuit Court Judge Michael S. Pincus sentenced Zakaria Oweiss to 30 years on May 23, the maximum penalty under Maryland law.

"He lay in wait and he killed his wife in a particularly violent and brutal way," Pincus said. "Not only did he kill his wife… he has irreparably damaged his family."

Omar testified as a prosecution witness in his father's trial and spoke at the sentencing hearing — the day he graduated with honors from the University of Maryland — saying that both his mother and father had taught him to "do the right thing at all costs, even if it means you have to stand alone."

"My mother has been forgotten in all of this," Omar said.

Marianne Oweiss, a native of Germany, worked as a simultaneous translator before coming to the United States to earn a degree in medical technology. After getting her degree, she worked in her husband's obstetrics and gynecology practice for more than 20 years. She was then a real estate agent with for Coldwell Banker Realty in Potomac Village.

PRESCOTT SIGMUND, 35, a former River Falls, received a 32-year prison sentence in August.

"I can't think of anything more diabolical," said Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, U.S. District Court. "That person should never again walk in civilized society."

Sigmund attempted to kill his father Donald Sigmund by planting a pipe bomb in his father’s Chevrolet Blazer in a parking garage on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest, Washington, D.C. When the bomb exploded on June 12, 2002. However, it was not his father, but his half-brother, Wright Sigmund, 21, who was caught in the blast.

"He almost bled to death at the scene," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne Hauch, at Sigmund's sentencing.

Wright Sigmund survived but was critically wounded, suffering near-fatal burns and massive internal injuries. Wright Sigmund has undergone more than 25 surgeries in the past year.

Prescott Sigmund fled to Montana, but turned himself in to police in Missoula, Montana the night he saw himself on the television show, “America’s Most Wanted,” on Nov. 9, 2002.

He plead guilty to three felonies, including assault with intent to kill while armed, using a destructive device during a crime of violence and mayhem while armed.

In August, Prescott Sigmund was sentenced to 32 years in prison. Many members of his family, including his ex-wife Brady Bulk and Wright Sigmund, felt the sentence was too light, but did not want to risk a jury finding him innocent.

After leaving prison, Prescott Sigmund will have five years of supervised release. He will have to pay restitution costs in excess of $600,000 and will not be allowed to have contact with his brother, ex-wife or his two children.

SEXUAL ASSAULT: Three former students at Walt Whitman High School were found guilty of the sexual assault of a woman lured to one teen’s Potomac home.

On Nov. 8, 2002, a 25-year old woman, identified by police as an “adult entertainer,” was lured to the home of Andrew Klepper, 15 at the time, on the 7900 block of Quarry Ridge Way, where he, Ryan Baird, 14 and Young Song, 19, assaulted and robbed her.

Klepper was sentenced to five years probation and has been in a treatment facility in Tennessee.

Baird’s case was heard in juvenile court where he plead “involved,” the juvenile equivalent of guilty. He could remain in custody until he turns 21.

Young Song had been sentenced to four years, but the sentence was recently reduced to 31 months. Song was not present at the time Klepper and Baird sexually assaulted the woman.

MURDER ON THE CANAL: Carlos Aguilar, 23 of Gaithersburg and Jose Rivas, 22 of Gaithersburg were each sentenced on Nov. 4 to 30 years in jail for the murder of 19-year-old Samantha Benavides at Violette’s Lock of the C&O Canal in Potomac.

All but 20 years of Aguilar’s sentence were suspended, and all but 12 of Aguilar’s were suspended.

On Dec. 4, 2002, Aguilar, Rivas, Raul Giovanni Medina, 23, Benavides and two other men bought a 12-pack of beer in Gaithersburg and drank it at a local park, according to Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.

The group then drove to Violette’s Lock. As Aguilar drove, Medina said, “Let’s kill Samantha,” according to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

After arriving at the canal, Medina told two of the men to go back to the car. He, Rivas and Aguilar then beat Benavides and threw her body into the canal.

The body was discovered on Dec. 13 by a man at the canal walking his dogs.

An autopsy determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head and drowning. It is unclear if the event was gang-related.

Medina was sentenced to 30 years on Oct. 21.

HOME INVASION: A string of crimes, which has yet to be solved, also hit Potomac this year. In a span of five months, three members of Potomac’s Asian community were victims of home-invasion style robberies. In each of the three cases, the invaders were also Asian and were armed with a pistol. In at least one, they spoke to the victim in Mandarin Chinese. Police are still investigating the incidents.