- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006



Slain boy’s family awarded $30 million

A Frederick County judge has awarded more than $30 million in damages to the family of a 9-year-old boy murdered by a sex offender who is serving two life sentences for the crime.

The civil judgment entered Tuesday against Elmer Spencer Jr., 50, is largely symbolic because Spencer is thought to have little money. But attorneys for Christopher Ausherman’s parents said the award could help their pending case against the state of Maryland when it goes to trial in June.

Judge Theresa M. Adams awarded the plaintiffs $30 million in punitive damages and $20 million in compensatory damages, but the compensatory amount was reduced to $1.48 million under state caps.

The one-day trial Tuesday concerned only Spencer’s liability. The state’s liability will be determined at a trial beginning June 6.

The plaintiffs say the state wrongly freed Spencer from prison five days before Christo-pher was sexually assaulted and fatally bludgeoned in Frederick on Nov. 19, 2000. His body was found in the dugout of a baseball stadium.

Spencer, a mentally retarded man with a record of attacking women and children, had been freed after serving about 31/2 years of a 10-year term for assault.

Prison officials said he was freed under a mandatory release program that included good-behavior credits earned during previous incarcerations dating to the late 1970s.


Student, 13, accused of armed robbery try

A 13-year-old boy has been accused of bringing a gun to Lansdowne Middle School yesterday morning and trying to rob a fellow student.

Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. Mike Hill said the BB handgun did not work but looked like a regular handgun.

Cpl. Hill said the boy approached an 11-year-old boy shortly after 8 a.m. and demanded his money. When the younger boy hesitated, the 13-year-old pulled the handgun. The school bell then rang, and the younger boy fled inside the school.

Another student who saw the incident told the principal, and the boy was arrested by a school resource officer. He still had the gun inside his jacket.

Cpl. Hill said the boy has been charged as a juvenile with attempted armed robbery, possession of a deadly weapon and disturbing school activities. He was released to his parents’ custody.

On Tuesday, a 14-year-old boy was charged with bringing a loaded handgun onto a Baltimore County school bus.


Fire department suspends three

The Baltimore fire department yesterday announced the suspensions of a fire captain, a firefighter and a pump operator stationed at Engine Company 46.

An anonymous caller contacted a battalion commander to report seeing a woman inside the Northwest Baltimore fire company after 9 p.m. who was drinking with fire department members, WBAL-TV (Channel 11) reported.

Department policy does not allow civilians in station houses after hours. The fire department confirmed that a woman was inside the station after hours and that she is an acquaintance of a fire department member.

The department, however, called the drinking charge unfounded at this point.

Fire Chief William Goodwin deemed the incident “of serious nature” and expressed “grave concern.”


Workers find dynamite in house

A state bomb squad removed more than 20 sticks of usable dynamite from a vacant house.

Workers who were renovating the house found a total of 211/2 sticks of dynamite in a wooden box in the basement Tuesday.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office said bomb technicians rendered the explosives safe.

Deputy Fire Marshal Bruce Shafer, a bomb technician, said the dynamite was probably at least 40 years old.

The dynamite was deteriorating, and it was the kind used for coal blasting.


Fire department gets fourth fire boat

A new fire boat is about to take to the waters around the District.

The D.C. Fire Department bought the $464,000 craft using money it got from a federal homeland security grant. The 35-foot craft joins three other vessels in the department’s fleet used to investigate incidents such as drownings and sinkings.

The boat is being outfitted and should be in service within a week.



Mother admits killing adopted daughter

A North Carolina woman pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder for beating her adopted 2-year-old daughter to death in July.

Peggy Sue Hilt choked back tears as she admitted guilt in Prince William County Circuit Court.

Police said Hilt lost her temper with the girl inside the family’s home in Wake Forest, N.C. Investigators said she acknowledged shaking Nina Hilt, dropping her to the floor, kicking her and punching her in the stomach and back.

The next day, the family left for a trip to Manassas to celebrate the Fourth of July. The girl collapsed and died after riding in the car for four hours.

Hilt’s guilty plea allowed her to avoid a possible first-degree murder charge. She faces up to 40 years in prison when she is sentenced May 25.


Woman drives car onto airport property

A woman drove her car onto private airport property at Washington Dulles International Airport yesterday afternoon, passing through two manned checkpoints before she was stopped, authorities said.

“From the time she went through the first manned checkpoint, she was followed by airport operations officers and security guards and was brought to a stop quickly,” said Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washing-ton Airports Authority. “Police arrived immediately, and she was placed under arrest.”

Police had to use pepper spray to contain her. She was questioned and police were to determine whether any charges would be filed.

The woman, driving a red Ford Mustang, entered the private airport road off Route 50. She ended up near Concourse G before she was stopped.

No aircraft were affected by the security breach.


State expands newborn screening

Beginning yesterday, Virginia newborns underwent screening for a wider range of inherited disorders.

As of March 1, the state Department of Health tested for 17 additional inherited dis-orders. That’s in addition to the screening that already had been conducted for 11 disorders, including sickle cell anemia.

The new testing includes screening for cystic fibrosis.

The screening is intended to identify and treat rare inherited disorders that, if left unchecked, could be devastating. In 2004, screening detected 129 children with genetic diseases.


Eight teens charged in burglary string

Eight juveniles have been arrested in a string of burglaries in the Burke area, Fairfax County police said.

The burglaries happened in December and January and included the theft of Christmas presents, cash and jewelry. In one case, four guns were stolen; two of those guns have been recovered.

All eight break-ins occurred in the early afternoon.

Police said the youths are 14 to 17 years old. The charges vary, but include burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of a firearm.


Teacher to appeal ban on Christian display

The case of a York County teacher who was told that he could not post Christian-themed materials in his classroom is heading to an appeals court.

The Rutherford Institute said yesterday it will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that concluded the teacher’s free-speech rights were not violated when he was ordered to remove the Christian-themed postings from his classroom.

Last week, a U.S. District judge in Newport News rejected arguments that school officials deprived William Lee of his First Amendment rights by ordering the materials removed.

The postings were removed from Mr. Lee’s Spanish classroom at Tabb High School in September 2004 school year after a parent complained.

The Rutherford Institute contends that a teacher does not check his constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door. The appeal is headed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.


Metro considers Green Line increase

Metro officials are looking at ways to increase service to some Green Line stops.

Members of the Planning and Development Committee will get a presentation today on ways to bring more off-peak and weekend trains to the Shaw-Howard U., U Street-Cardozo, Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue-Petworth stations.

Four possibilities include doubling the number of Green Line trains, or extending the Yellow Line, possibly as far as Greenbelt. The annual operating costs run from $2 million to $10 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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