- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Hours after a state prison inmate was killed aboard a Division of Correction bus, attorneys for a two-time murderer who was aboard the vehicle sent letters to police and prosecutors in jurisdictions the bus passed through, warning authorities against questioning their client.

The letters were aimed at preserving Kevin G. Johns Jr.’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because “it was possible that he might be a suspect” in the slaying of Philip E. Parker Jr., Michael Morrissette, the public defender for Washington and Frederick counties, said yesterday.

Division of Correction spokeswoman Capt. Priscilla Doggett refused to identify any suspects in the Feb. 2 killing, citing the continuing investigation by the Internal Investigations Unit of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services with assistance from the Maryland State Police.

“We are investigating this aggressively. We are looking at one or more assailants, but no formal charges have been filed,” she said.

Any charges likely will be filed in Baltimore County, Assistant State’s Attorney S. Ann Brobst said.

A murder committed while a defendant is serving a life sentence is among the aggravating circumstances that qualify for the death penalty in Maryland, but Miss Brobst said it was too soon to say whether Parker’s slaying fit that description.

Johns had been sentenced to life without parole the day before the slaying for strangling his 16-year-old cellmate, Armad Cloude. Parker, who was serving 3 years for unarmed robbery and a weapons violation, had testified for the defense at the hearing in Hagerstown that Johns needed psychiatric treatment. Johns told the judge that without intensive treatment, he probably would kill again. The judge didn’t recommend treatment.

Parker, 20, of Baltimore, was killed early the next morning on a bus carrying him, Johns and 33 other inmates from Hagerstown to the Baltimore area. His body was found about 4 a.m., at the end of the 80-mile trip, when the bus arrived at maximum-security Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, where both Parker and Johns were incarcerated. A prison chaplain told Parker’s parents that their son had been strangled.

When Johns killed Cloude at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown in January 2004, he was serving a 35-year sentence for choking and cutting his uncle to death in Baltimore in 2002.

The Parker family’s attorney, Michael A. Mastracci, sent a letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on Monday requesting a private meeting “so that the family can at least learn what has happened to their son.”

“While we respect that this matter is ‘under investigation,’ there is surely some information that can and should be provided that would in no way compromise any investigation,” Mr. Mastracci wrote.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said yesterday that the governor had received the letter. “At the appropriate time he would be happy to meet with the family,” Mr. Fawell said.

“He has said that this is a tragedy, and the investigation is going on, and people will be held accountable once the investigation is complete,” Mr. Fawell said.

Capt. Doggett said state corrections officials are considering equipping prison buses with video surveillance cameras.

The five officers on the bus, all of whom were with a Baltimore-based transportation unit, have been placed on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation and policy review.

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