While friends and family of Samantha MacQuilliam prepare to attend her burial tomorrow, many are questioning the merits of a judicial system that allowed her alleged murderer, Matthew Dieterle, to move with her to Florida.
A viewing was held in Maryland Wednesday for the sophomore who was murdered one week ago in her Palm Harbor home.
Back in Florida, her boyfriend, who is charged with first degree murder, was transferred Tuesday from the Hillsborough County jail to one in Pinellas County, where the murder took place.
Jail is a familiar place for the 23-year-old, but not as familiar as one might expect when looking at court records in two states.
Time after time, the judicial system suspended sentences, dropped charges, took plea deals, offered work release and in the final decision that allowed Dieterle to move to Florida, the judge suspended almost half of his probation after Dieterle’s businessman father wrote a letter to the judge.
Since turning 18, Dieterle has faced numerous criminal charges in Maryland and Pinellas County:
- -two for first degree assault,
- -two for second degree assault,
- -five were gun-related
- -three for possession of narcotics or paraphernalia,
- -two for reckless endangerment,
- -one for fourth degree burglary,
- -one for fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer,
- -and one for obstruction of justice.
During that time Dieterle pled guilty to one count of first degree assault and one count of the unlawful carrying of a handgun, earning him a sentence that totaled seven years in prison and 10 years of supervised probation.
Despite all of this, Dieterle has served little more than a year in prison and three years of probation.
LEGAL TROUBLES IN MARYLAND
Most of these charges stem from incidents occurring over a two-day span in November of 2001, According to The Capital in Annapolis, Md., police said Dieterle pulled a gun on two men Friday, Nov. 16 near his hometown of Gambrills, Md., where both Dieterle and his alleged victim, Samantha MacQuilliam, grew up.
After calling one of the men a ‘punk’ and repeatedly pulling the trigger’mdash;the gun did not go off’mdash;Dieterle exited his vehicle with a baseball bat and punched a man in the head, the police reported..
Two days later, Dieterle allegedly broke into his parents’ house, which he had been kicked out of three months earlier. When police caught up with him, they said they discovered a 9 mm handgun with its serial number filed down, a bag of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, The Capital reported.
The following October, Circuit Court Judge Joseph P. Manck decided to sentence Dieterle concurrently for the separate incidents over the two-day span. The result was a sentence of four years in prison and five years of supervised probation.
Manck then suspended all but 18 months of the sentence and allowed work-release. Manck released Dieterle after serving only 14 months, commuting the rest of the sentence to house arrest, according to court records
HARASSMENT OF A COLLEGE WOMAN
While still on work-release, court records show that a peace order, equivalent to a restraining order, was filed against Dieterle in January of 2003 by a West Virginia University student who said that Dieterle had threatened her and harassed her friends and family.
He called her at college ‘every minute or two’ and searched for her at her friends’ houses ‘with a crazed attitude,’ The Capital reported. The peace order is still active.
Released from prison after serving 14 months, Dieterle was still on probation in May of 2006 when his father asked Judge Manck to terminate his probation more than two years early so that Matthew could move to Florida.
Robert S. Dieterle, Matthew’s father and President of the accounting firm Dieterle ‘amp; Lynch, wrote the judge a letter requesting that his son be granted ‘permission to leave Maryland and get a fresh start’ in Tampa. The father said his son would attend community college.
Judge Manck complied, terminating Dieterle’s probation more than two years early and allowing him to move to Florida to attend college. There is no record of Dieterle attending school in Tampa, said Pinellas County sheriff’s spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.
‘I am not abandoning him, as I will provide him financial assistance toward his school and living expenses while he is attending school,’ the father wrote.
Before leaving Maryland, Dieterle had been hired by his father, who cited in the letter his son’s duties of data entry, bank deposits and organization of files as evidence of his maturity and productivity.‘ He also indicated that he had allowed his son back into the family home.
A FRIEND REACTS
Pooja Patel, Samantha MacQuilliam’s classmate, is incensed by Manck’s decision and Robert Dieterle’s actions.
‘It makes me unbelievably angry that there’s people in jail who didn’t deserve to be in there, and there’s psycho killers, sexual harassers, and idiots like Dieterle out on the loose because our system can’t get their mind to think straight,’ Patel wrote in an email interview. ‘I know some parents do such things in hope of their children improving, but I hope he realizes now that he’s part of what has just happened by covering up his son’s mistakes.’
Patel said she would complete Samy’s summer course work so she can receive the course credit she deserves,
The Capital reported that Judge Manck also agreed to review Dieterle’s convictions in one year’s time to consider transferring them to a status that would have effectively cleaned up his criminal history. That hearing was scheduled for next week.
TROUBLE IN FLORIDA
Just a year after leaving Maryland, Dieterle was arrested June 20 of this year after an encounter with two police officers at a Largo convenient store.
The encounter began when the deputies asked Dieterle to turn down his car stereo. After initially complying, Pashsa says Dieterle then blared the music again as he drove past the officers and stared them down. When the officers pulled him over, he yelled and screamed at them before reaching into the back seat for his dropped cell phone, Pasha said.
A backup officer then spotted the butt of a gun near where Dieterle was reaching and shouted ‘Gun! Gun! Gun!,’ Pasha said. Dieterle was dragged from the car, where police found less than a gram of marijuana and what was actually a toy gun, its red tip painted black to make it look real, Pasha said. Dieterle said it was for a Halloween costume and didn’t know how it got into the car.
The Tampa Tribune reports that a court hearing was scheduled for August 27 in that case, but it is unclear whether the trial was moved in light of the first degree murder charges.
Court records indicate that Dieterle spent that night in jail, but was released early the following morning. That was less than a month before MacQuilliam’s murder. The couple’s neighbor John Lasser told reporters that the couple broke up shortly after this arrest, but they later reconciled and got back together.
Since his arrest Saturday, Dieterle is still being held without bond. Police reported that he drove home to Maryland after the murder and flew back to Tampa on Saturday morning. Pasha indicates that Dieterle, accompanied by his mother and uncle, had planned not on turning himself in, but on finding an attorney to facilitate an interview with Pinellas County authorities. Not knowing a warrant was out for his arrest, he was taken into custody on sight at the Tampa International Airport Saturday.
Scott Daugherty of The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) helped with this report. ‘