Terence Caruso still has three bullets lodged in his body.
He’s nearly blind and is deaf in one ear after being shot nearly four years ago, and his life revolves mostly around going to the gym and going home, his mother, Karen Chamberlain, told a judge Thursday.
Caruso was the target of the Sept. 27, 2018, shooting in Crownsville, prosecutors said. He doesn’t remember the incident. Although his life is nothing like it was before that day, Caruso, now 26, was the one who survived.
Danielle Gunson, 18, of Owings was killed and was a “collateral” victim that day, Assistant State’s Attorney Glen Neubauer told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Stacy W. McCormack during Thursday’s sentencing hearing for the man who pleaded guilty to killing her and shooting Caruso.
Neubauer said the accused,Liam Cameron Penn, now 29, of Woodstock, sought to cover up the homicide by placing a needle in Gunson’s arm to make it appear that she overdosed on drugs. When her body was located, Penn contacted detectives and attempted to frame somebody else for her death, Neubauer said.
Penn, Caruso and Gunson were traveling in a car together early that morning, according to police. Penn shot Caruso near Johns Hopkins Road in Crownsville in a dispute over Xanax, Neubauer said, and shot Gunson “just because she was there.”
There are some details about what happened that day that authorities may never know, he said. But police say Penn left Caruso for dead in Crownsville while he took Gunson’s body to Brooklyn to dispose of it.
Penn, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and two firearms offenses in May, said he was addicted to Xanax and alcohol at the time of the shooting. His lawyer, Justin Eisele, said that Penn sobering up while in jail was “one of the few positive things” to come out of the situation.
“Every day I pray, and I ask God for forgiveness,” Penn said in court Thursday. “I know I deserve every bit of time you’re about to give me,” he told McCormack.
Eisele said that when Penn told his associates about what had happened, they didn’t believe him at first.
“He was not a person who exhibited violent behavior,” Eisele said.
McCormack sentenced Penn to a total of 100 years in prison, suspended after 60 years. She recommended that he be sent to the Patuxent Institution, a state prison that focuses on drug treatment.
In a statement, State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess described the shooting as a “senseless tragedy.”
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“Ms. Gunson was murdered simply because she was present at the time the defendant apparently made the decision to shoot Terence Caruso,” she said. “The defendant turned the gun on her, most likely to leave no witnesses to his heinous crime.”
Colt Leitess thanked witnesses who came forward and expressed condolences to Gunson’s family, stating that Penn would be “removed from our community and unable to harm others for the next 60 years.”
Before McCormack rendered her sentence, Gunson’s family members told the judge they routinely relive the horrors of that day, recalling daily nightmares about their young relative’s death.
“It’s a very scary dream,” said Valerie Gunson, Danielle’s mother. “But I wake up, and it’s real.”
She misses getting daily texts from her daughter about things she wanted to buy, especially decor for her room.
Gunson recalled the tie-dye Ocean City sweatshirt that her daughter wore on the day she died. They had gone to the resort town two weeks before and spent hours together shopping for the perfect souvenir sweatshirt.
“It made me happy to the brim,” she said.