Imposter robberies involved 9, police say
Nine persons were involved in a pair of bank robberies last week in Wheaton and the District that centered around a robber disguised as an armored-vehicle guard, investigators said yesterday.
Six of the nine have been arrested, including Elizabeth Tarke, 40, of Olney, a worker at the BB&T bank branch in Wheaton that was robbed Wednesday. The others are David Mbom, 38, of Catonsville; Phillippe Ngassa, 46, Ernest Yossa, 43, and Edmond Machie, 38, all of Silver Spring; and Robert Tataw.
Impostors dressed as armored-car guards robbed the BB&T Bank and a Wachovia branch in the District the next day. Both robberies were discovered when the real security guards showed up for their regular pickups.
Investigators have not said which suspect was dressed as the security guard, but authorities said Mr. Mbom had a security-guard uniform and a receipt for it.
Row house burns; cigarette blamed
Fire raced through a row house yesterday morning, destroying the home and damaging two others.
Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said firefighters responded to the blaze at about 4:30 a.m. on Kenyon Street Northwest. A firefighter sustained minor injuries from falling debris, and a 3-year-old was evaluated for smoke inhalation.
Mr. Etter said the blaze began on the first floor of the home when someone improperly discarded cigarettes. Damage is estimated at $150,000.
Drug dealer gets 11½ years
A Pocomoke City man was sentenced to 11½ years in federal prison on crack cocaine charges.
Curtis Schoolfield, 29, also known as "Smoosh," also was ordered to serve eight years' supervised probation after the prison term.
He was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and distribution and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.
According to trial testimony, Schoolfield sold crack to a government informant on three occasions. For one of the transactions, he sent his mother to deliver the drugs and collect the money.
Schoolfield served 18 months for a November 2000 crack cocaine conviction in Worcester County.
WSSC proposes huge rate increase
The water utility serving most of Montgomery and Prince George's counties is proposing a rate increase ranging from $150 to $225 each quarter.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said the money is needed to replace the disintegration of an aging network of water and sewer pipes. The plan calls for customer rates to rise 9.5 percent in July. Residents also would pay an additional $20 a month for the next 10 years to speed the replacement of the system's 10,800 miles of underground water and sewer pipes. Rates also would go up each year, including an 11.5 percent increase next year.
WSSC General Manager Andrew Brunhart said there were more than 2,100 pipe bursts last year, leaving customers without water and tieing up traffic during repairs.
There will be public hearings on the proposal Feb. 6 in Largo and Feb. 7 in Rockville.
200-year-old barn to be stabilized
The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to start work this spring on a historic barn on land inside Fort Detrick.
The corps plans to repair holes in the roof, rehang some doors and stabilize the buckling walls of the building, which is more than 200 years old. The Corps also will build a concrete anchor for the outside wall.
Officials at Fort Detrick say the plan is to stabilize the barn, not restore it. The idea is to prevent the building from collapsing while officials determine a possible future use for the building.
The barn is one of several historic buildings in the recreation area at the post. It is built into an earthen bank and water in the soil has caused a wall to buckle.
The stabilization project will cost about $500,000.
Gasoline in barrel flashes, burns man
A Hurlock man suffered burns to his face, arms and legs after he used gasoline to ignite a fire in a trash barrel, fire investigators said.
The Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office said William Matthews, 48, was trying to burn a blanket in a metal barrel behind his home Sunday afternoon. When he poured gasoline onto the combustibles, it flashed and caused the burns.
Mr. Matthews is being treated at Bayview Burn Center in Baltimore.
Social Services chief quits amid inquiry
The head of Baltimore's Department of Social Services voluntarily resigned — a week after state officials began an investigation into the case of a 2-year-old girl whose death was caused by a methadone overdose and beating, state officials said yesterday.
Samuel Chambers' resignation from the agency overseen by the state's Department of Human Resources is effective immediately.
The girl's mother has been charged in the death. The agency already had taken away two of the woman's older daughters, but the 2-year-old girl apparently was not noted by caseworkers.
Mr. Chambers was hired in 2004 to improve the city's social services department, which has come under fire for failing to prevent child deaths due to abuse and neglect.
Teens denied bail in fatal drive-by
A judge yesterday denied bail for three teens charged in a fatal drive-by shooting last week near Charles H. Flowers High School.
Police said Jeffrey Boddie, 17; Terrance Martin, 18; and Marcus Reynolds, 19, all of Lanham, are charged in the death of 18-year-old Cherresse Richardson-Frederick, 18, a senior who was shot in the head while walking home from school last Tuesday. She died Thursday.
A 17-year-old girl who was with Miss Richardson-Frederick and a 36-year-old man were also shot but were not seriously wounded.
Police said Miss Richardson-Frederick was not the intended target.
The suspects' next scheduled court appearance is a preliminary hearing on Feb. 8.
Judge rejects appeal of death-row inmate
A federal judge rejected an appeal from a Virginia death-row inmate sentenced to death only after he wrote a taunting letter to prosecutors that included a detailed confession of his crime.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis rejected arguments by attorneys for Paul Powell of Manassas, who was sentenced to death for the murder and attempted rape of a 16-year-old girl in 1999.
Powell originally was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Supreme Court of Virginia tossed out the death sentence.
Powell mistakenly thought the court's ruling made it impossible for him to ever receive the death penalty, so he wrote a letter to Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert in which he provided new details of his crime, including his attempt to rape Stacie Reed before he killed her.
"Since ... the Va. Supreme Court said that I can't be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999 to show you how stupid all of y'all ... are," Powell wrote to Mr. Ebert.
Armed with Powell's confession, Mr. Ebert put him on trial again in 2003 and won a new conviction and a new death sentence.
Powell's attorney said he plans to appeal the ruling.
Va. Tech cancels classes on April 16
Virginia Tech will close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and will cancel classes April 16 to honor victims of last year's mass shootings on campus.
President Charles W. Steger decided to close the school from now on to observe the King holiday, which this year falls on Jan. 21. Classes have been canceled for several years to honor the slain civil rights leader, but this will be the first time the entire school closes.
Meanwhile, administrative offices will remain open April 16 because there will be a number of programs that day to commemorate the first anniversary of the deaths of 33 students and faculty members.
Repo man killed when car falls on him
A Newport News man trying to repossess a car died Saturday when he became pinned under the vehicle.
Darrell Lee Jones, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Suffolk police spokeswoman Lt. Debbie George said Mr. Jones was using a wrecker to repossess the car when it rolled off the back of the truck. When Mr. Jones tried to stop the car, it rolled into a ditch and dragged him beneath it.
Lt. George said police found out what happened after viewing videotape from the wrecker's camera system.
From wire dispatches and staff reports