It’s been a long journey for Gale Seaton.
The 14 years since her 17-year-old daughter, Stacey, was shot to death on a path just behind her home has brought the Maryland mom anguish and unimaginable grief. The years since have been filled with billboards pleading for information, arrests, an acquittal, and a years-long battle to change the law in Maryland, which classified murder for hire as a misdemeanor crime.
But just last month, Seaton was finally given a moment to rest after Maryland lawmakers voted unanimously to pass a bill aptly named “Stacey’s Law” in honor of her slain daughter that would make solicitation of murder a felony in the state.
“It was the most peaceful, amazing feeling,” Seaton told Oxygen.com of the unanimous vote.
Lawmakers gave Seaton a standing ovation, and the tireless crusader — who never keeps the daughter she calls a “child of God” far from her heart — wept.
“I said, ‘I can’t thank you guys enough because this will save lives,’” Seaton said.
A Life Cut Short
When Stacey Seaton was shot on June 1, 2005, she died for a second time.
The first time was just moments after she was born when an umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck cut off her oxygen supply.
She was dead for nearly a minute before doctors were able to resuscitate her and the bouncing baby was given a second chance at life.
“She was absolutely beautiful inside and out and she radiated a serenity,” her mother told Oxygen.com.
Stacey was always a spiritual person and her mother believes it was that near-death experience that gave her a close relationship with God, but the loss of oxygen also left her with some developmental delays.
But despite the challenges she faced, Stacey was a well-liked student who loved her family.
“She looked for the best for everybody,” Gale said.
But when Stacey reached high school, she began to get into trouble. Her beauty and warm personality attracted the attention of older boys and Gale said her young daughter fell into the wrong crowd — and drugs.
Her family had gotten her help and she was pulling away from that lifestyle just before she was killed, abruptly ending the 17-year-old’s short life.
Gale told Oxygen.com her daughter and several friends had taken a person to buy drugs at the home of one of their acquaintances shortly before she was killed.
What her daughter didn’t know, according to Gale, is that some of the people would later return to the house to steal drugs, money, and a gun from the apartment of McDonald “Duce” Abraham.
Gale doesn’t believe her daughter ever returned to the home to commit the robbery, but Abraham would later testify in court that he thought Stacey was responsible for the theft and ordered her to be killed.
He claimed to have paid another man $400 and $200 worth of marijuana to carry out the hit, WRC-TV reported.
While Gale said her family long suspected who was behind the murder, limited resources in the county and a lack of evidence delayed any arrests.
“We knew who did it on the first day,” she claimed.
As the years went by without Stacey, Gale, who has a background in military intelligence and investigations, said Abraham would taunt her on social media.
Then in 2009, a renewed focus on the case by cold case detectives finally led to Abraham’s arrest.
"This is a huge day for us," Stacey’s father, Michael Seaton told The Washington Examiner at the time. "Now Stacey can get her day in court and individuals can be held accountable."
Abraham would later reach a deal with prosecutors agreeing to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a lighter sentence and testimony against Jarvis Tyler, who he claimed had been hired to carry out the murder. Investigators also found a cigarette butt with Tyler’s DNA near Stacey’s body.
But in 2012, even with Abraham’s testimony, Tyler would be found not guilty of the crime.
“I’ve had to make my peace with everybody, but I am not going away,” Gale said of the verdict, adding that she was glad someone was charged for committing the murder, even if the case didn’t result in a conviction.
As a result of the deal with prosecutors, Abraham is slated to be released in 2020 after serving just 10 years and 5 months in prison for his second-degree murder and illegal use of a handgun convictions.
Another Crusade Begins
After the criminal battle in court, Gale said she was shocked to learn that in the state of Maryland, the act of soliciting a murder was classified only as a misdemeanor.
She discovered the categorization after going back to college and taking a criminal law and action class. As part of her course work, she looked through the various charges and their designation within the state and realized that soliciting a murder was not considered a felony.
“When it hit me, that was almost as bad as Stacey being murdered because that was the state telling me that her murder was a misdemeanor,” Gale said. “That’s harsh. It still brings emotions.”
Although the statute of limitations had already run out in Stacey’s murder for the solicitation charge to have been a part of Abraham’s charges, Gale believed that anyone who solicited a murder should face much harsher consequences than they would under the current laws.
She set off on a crusade to get the charge changed to a felony. The bill, known as “Stacey’s Law,” failed to come up for a vote in 2018, but in 2019 Gale aligned herself with a powerful ally, Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith.
With the legislator’s help, the bill passed unanimously in 2019, finally giving the grieving mother a moment of peace.
“It will save lives, it will save lives and if it doesn’t, well, at least people will go away for life,” she said.
Valentino-Smith told Oxygen.com that when solicitation had been considered a misdemeanor it also had a very short statute of limitations in addition to weaker penalties. In Seaton’s case, the statute of limitations actually ran out before the charge could be added to Abraham’s charges.
“It’s a complex crime and can also take several years to put together the significant level of evidence that you need,” the legislator said.
Under the new law, the statute of limitations has been extended and perpetrators will face much more significant penalties.
“They now have an additional charge so that the justice system can, I believe, more justly charge and allow prosecutors the opportunity to have a variety of significant charges so they can best set the case up for trial, settlement, or leverage,” Valentino-Smith said.
She believes Gale and her family played a critical role in getting the law passed.
“Advocacy is really important and although it certainly took more years than the Seatons probably initially thought it would, they persevered so that others have a better opportunity in the criminal justice system than they had to seek justice,” she said.
But even with the passage of the new law, nothing will ever replace Gale’s daughter.
“As horrible as you think the pain can be, it doesn’t even come close. It doesn’t come close, that desperation, that sheer, pure desperation,” she said of the loss. “Everybody will tell you, it’s life before and life after.”
Still, the passage of the law has helped restore a bit of justice for her daughter and other victims.
Seaton can finally rest, although she said she’ll never stop helping the families of other victims in need.
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