Annapolis man sentenced for accepting payment to kill woman's boyfriend

An Annapolis man will spend decades behind bars for accepting a $3,200 payment to kill a man following a verbal argument.

Michael Gibson, 23, 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. 

Gibson was paid $3200 by Thomas Smith, 31, to kill the victim following a verbal argument between the victim and Smith’s mother. 

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Annapolis police officers responded to a call of shots fired in the area of Bens Drive in Annapolis on March 15, 2020 around 6:23 p.m. Officers located an adult male on the ground, unresponsive and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

The victim, identified Leslie Eugene Saunders, was pronounced deceased at the scene and his death was determined to be homicide by gunshot.

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

"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."

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During the investigation, detectives learned that an associate of Gibson contacted him requesting to pay him to murder Saunders, who was 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 up 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 Saunders who had walked between two apartment buildings. Gibson shot Saunders and then fled the neighborhood where Smith was waiting nearby in his F-150 truck.

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Detectives tracked the two men as they fled the area. The investigation ultimately revealed that Smith paid $2,000 to Gibson prior to the murder and then paid him an additional $1,200 in cash after.

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