Local Man Gets Sentenced After Pleading Guilty in Connection with Annapolis Murder for Hire Case

A local man has been sentenced after pleading guilty in connection with a murder-for-hire that was carried out in Annapolis three years ago. 

During a hearing at the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on January 25, 2022, Michael Gibson (shown above), 23, of Annapolis, entered a guilty plea to first degree murder and using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in the death of Leslie Saunders, 50. Prosecutors said Gibson was paid $3200 by Thomas Smith (shown below), 31, to kill the Saunders following a verbal argument between Saunders and Smith’s mother. 

Last week, Gibson was sentenced to 80 years in prison.  

On December 6, 2021, Smith entered an alford plea to first degree murder and use of a firearm while committing a violent crime.  Under an alford plea, defendants maintain their  innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence that could be used to find them guilty at trial.

Online records indicate that on March 31, 2022, Smith was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  He was ordered to be supervised by the Department of Parole and Probation for a period of five years upon his release. 

“It’s shocking that a verbal argument prompted Thomas Smith to hire Gibson to kill Mr. Saunders and that Gibson was willing to commit such a heinous crime for money. Not only was this murder cold and calculated, but it now leaves three men’s lives - and their family’s lives - devastated. The defendant had little regard for human life or the community when he tracked the victim down in the neighborhood with the help of Thomas Smith. When he located the victim, he shot him repeatedly,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “I am grateful that both of the perpetrators of this senseless crime have been held accountable for a brazen murder that took place in Annapolis. The Bens Drive neighborhood should not have to live in fear that this kind of gun violence will be accepted as common place.