Cumberland Times-News

October 24, 2012

City man gets life sentence

Kathy Mellott
Johnstown Tribune-Democrat

— BEDFORD, Pa. — A Maryland man who last month admitted to fatally shooting the boyfriend of his ex-wife will spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole, a Bedford County judge or-dered Tuesday.

Mark Shirey, 45, of Cumberland would have faced the death penalty if a jury were to convict him of first-degree murder. He avoided a jury trial and instead entered a guilty plea in late September in the death of Michael Simpson, 49, of Cumberland Valley.

Judge Thomas Ling told Simpson’s elderly parents that he wished there was something he could do to ease their pain.

Then, turning to Shirey, the judge said Shirey may have made the wrong decision in his attempts to avoid the death penalty.

“You will spend decades in prison and have to observe the world outside. You will grow older and older,” Ling said. “For me, the death penalty would have been an easier route.”

In September, Shirey admitted to the judge that he shot Simpson, who lived alone, as the victim entered his home south of Bedford on March 27, 2011.

The defendant was arrested a few days later in the Cumberland area on an unrelated offense, and he later was charged with Simpson’s death.

The murder ended a long, bitter relationship between the murderer and the victim. Shirey alleged that Simpson had stolen his family.

His former wife and mother of his children, Karen Bennett, had dated Simpson for a number of years.

Bennett contacted police the day following the shooting to report that Simpson was not answering his telephone.

The victim was found lying in his dining room in a pool of blood. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Police reported finding six spent 12 gauge shotgun shells and four spent .22 caliber casings on the floor of Simpson’s kitchen and dining room. The weapons were later tied to Shirey. A witness testified that he sold guns in Baltimore in exchange for drugs.

Also, police found Simpson’s blood on Shirey’s pants and shoes, Higgins said.

Shirey allegedly told a friend that Simpson deserved to die and the murder was nine years in the making. The two men had been at odds for some time. Criminal records show that Shirey previously had been convicted of assaulting Simpson.

Bennett, who sat beside James and Myna Simpson during the sentencing, told her former husband that his lifetime of refusing to accept responsibility for his actions has impacted many people, including the two children that she had with him.

“You could never see your own fault. Everything was always someone else’s fault,” she said. “You left six children without a father. You left parents without a son. For what? For what? I hope you accomplished what you wanted.”

Shirey read a long, disjointed statement. He spoke of remorse, especially for the impact on his four children, and his long-held hatred and anger with Simpson.

“I promised Mike in 2002 that if he continued the affair with my wife, I would take his life,” he said.