January 29, 2023
Annapolis, US 47 F

Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Bay Ridge Gardens Murder

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced today that Michael Gibson, 23, of Annapolis, was sentenced to Life in Prison, with all but 80 years suspended for first-degree murder and 20 years, concurrent for using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in the death of Leslie Saunders, 50. After a verbal argument between the victim and Smith’s mother, Gibson was paid $3200 by Thomas Smith, 31, to kill the victim. Smith plead guilty to First Degree Murder and was sentenced to Life in Prison, with all but 25 years suspended on March 31, 2022.

 “Michael Gibson exhibited a complete disregard for human life when, without hesitation, he accepted money to murder a complete stranger,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “This sentence reflects the gravity of the crime Gibson committed, and it’s my hope that the loved ones of Mr. Saunders are able to find a level of solace after this sentence.” 

On Sunday, March 15, 2020 at approximately 6:23 p.m., Annapolis police officers responded to a call of shots fired in the area of Bens Drive in Annapolis. Upon arrival, they located an adult male on the ground, unresponsive and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The victim, identified as Leslie Eugene Saunders, was pronounced deceased at the scene and later, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the cause and manner of death was homicide by gunshot. 

Detectives obtained and reviewed video surveillance from the area, which captured portions of the crime. The video captured the shooter who the detectives recognized as the defendant, Michael Gibson. 

During the investigation, detectives learned that an associate of the defendant contacted him requesting to pay him to murder Mr. Saunders, the longtime boyfriend of Thomas Smith’s mother. Police discovered that the mother and victim had a verbal argument that day, and she was taken to the hospital by ambulance due to a medical concern shortly thereafter. Video surveillance showed the defendant first meeting with Smith in the 1100 block of Madison Street. A short time later, Smith drove Gibson to the area of Marcs Court in Annapolis, where the victim was walking in the same community a block away. 

Surveillance captured Gibson as he approached Mr. Saunders who had walked between two apartment buildings. Gibson shot the victim and fled the neighborhood where Smith was waiting in his F-150 truck. Detectives tracked the two men as they fled the area. The investigation ultimately revealed that Smith paid $2,000 to Gibson before the murder and then paid him an additional $1,200 in cash after.

On April 3, 2020, the defendant was located and arrested. The defendant is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a previous conviction. 

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