- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 23, 2000

A Frederick County, Md., judge yesterday refused to release the man charged with killing 9-year-old Christopher Lee Ausherman, whose bloody, unclothed body was found Monday morning at a south Frederick ball field.

Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle said he must wait for autopsy results and an analysis of semen found on the boy's leg before deciding whether to seek the death penalty against Elmer Spencer Jr., 44.

Spencer was released Nov. 14 after serving less than four years of a 10-year sentence for assault and escape.

Keeping Spencer in jail now is too little, too late, for the prosecutor and mourners who stopped by McCurdy Field yesterday to place toys and flowers along the fence bordering the ballpark where Christopher apparently died.

Lt. Thomas Chase, commander of the Frederick police criminal investigative unit, said that according to the medical examiner's preliminary examination, Christopher died of strangulation, including a blow to the head, and that his death was probably rapid.

Mr. Rolle said nobody could explain how it could be reasonable to release directly into the community a prisoner who had been charged so frequently with sexual assault, mostly against children, as Spencer had.

Spencer's sentence for the 1996 assault on a woman in Frederick required him to undergo substance-abuse counseling upon release, and "if recommended," sexual-offense counseling,

Spencer kept an initial appointment with a probation officer and had been scheduled to meet again about possible sex-offense counseling yesterday, Mr. Sipes said.

But Mr. Sipes said the Division of Probation and Parole did not recommend that Spencer be required to go into immediate sex-offense counseling, despite a new Maryland law that allows the parole commission to place more conditions on prisoners let out under the mandatory-release law.

Under that law, "good behavior" credits put Spencer back on the street Nov. 14 from a state prison in Hagerstown after serving just 3 and 1/2 years of a 25-year sentence in which all but 10 years were suspended.

He had drawn that sentence for pleading guilty to assault after a woman accused him of trying to rape her in Frederick. But he'd compiled a history of assault and sex-offense charges including a conviction in 1981 for sexual assault of a child that kept him in prison until 1994 and a charge of sexually molesting a child in 1996 that was dropped.

"Some people go on work release; some are just sprung," Mr. Rolle said, noting that such decisions, even under the mandatory-release law, are up to parole officials.

Mr. Sipes said he was told it is "very difficult" to get immediate inpatient- or outpatient-treatment slots for sex offenders outside the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

Lawmakers said yesterday they will consider changes to the way prisoners are released in the wake of Christopher's death. And they say it means Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who oversees criminal justice in Maryland, will have to provide answers to Marylanders she hopes will elect her governor in 2002.

Charging documents state that Christopher's mother, Mary Voit, told police the child went out to play at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, that she had told him to stay in the yard and that she went to look for him about 9 p.m. because he had not returned. She called police at 9:22 p.m. to report him missing.

According to the documents, Miss Voit's brother-in-law, Carl Hewitt, told her he had seen Christopher about 6 p.m. walking near their residence with a tall, thin black man.

Documents also say that, shortly before Miss Voit called, Frederick police were dispatched to a nearby bus station to interview a person who had called to say he had seen a youngster getting beaten up at a Frederick ballpark.

Police did not find the caller at the station, nor the child at several ballparks they checked, including McCurdy Field, where a Public Works employee discovered the boy's unclothed body in the third-base dugout shortly before 9:30 a.m. Monday.

People who know Spencer identified his voice on the police tape. Videotapes from two convenience stores showed a man who looks like Spencer buying items for a child who looks like Christopher, police said.

Blood and dirt on layers of clothes Spencer was wearing when police arrested him Monday night at a Frederick homeless shelter fit evidence at the scene, they said.

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