Friday, February 1, 2008



Weapons, chemicals found in row house

Authorities closed a city block and evacuated several houses after officers serving a warrant at a row house in the Hampden neighborhood discovered weapons and suspicious chemicals.

Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said county and city officers serving an arrest warrant for felony theft at a row house in the 3400 block of Roland Avenue at about 7:45 a.m. yesterday discovered items that concerned them.

City fire department spokesman Chief Kevin Cartwright said police removed firearms, including a machine gun, an inert hand grenade and material that might be an inert explosive. He said five houses on either side of the row house were evacuated as a precaution.

Miss Llewellyn said Jonathan Hollands, 39, was arrested and taken to the county detention center.


Guilty plea negated in double-fatal crash

A Howard County judge rejected a plea agreement involving an illegal alien charged in a drunken-driving crash that killed two persons.

Judge Lenore Gelfman yesterday expressed her unhappiness with the provision in the agreement calling for eight years in prison for Eduardo Morales-Soriano, to be followed by deportation.

Morales-Soriano pleaded guilty in December to two counts of negligent vehicular manslaughter in the Thanksgiving 2006 crash in Columbia that killed Marine Cpl. Brian Matthews and Jennifer Bower.

The rejection of the plea deal means a date will be set for trial.


Teacher arrested in sex-abuse case

The Caroline County Sheriff’s Office arrested an eighth-grade teacher on child sex-abuse charges.

Investigators said Lee Holmes, 25, of Greensboro, is a teacher at Lockerman Middle School and faces charges involving a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old female student.

Police said Mr. Holmes became a suspect Tuesday night after the girl was dropped off at her home in Marydel after leaving without permission. Her mother chased the driver at high speed, until the driver’s car crashed in Queen Anne’s County. The mother recognized Mr. Holmes as the driver of the wrecked car.

Mr. Holmes was treated for his injuries at a hospital and arrested Wednesday at his mother’s home in Prince George’s County.


Troopers triple up to patrol Route 15

The Maryland State Police are stepping up enforcement along a troublesome stretch of U.S. 15 in Frederick County.

The agency has tripled the number of trooper work groups responsible for the seven-mile stretch between U.S. 340 and the Potomac River Bridge at Point of Rocks.

Police said drivers should expect a significant increase in law enforcement in that area.

A fatal collision Tuesday was the fifth fatal crash in 25 months along that stretch of highway.


2 at halfway house fired after breach

Operators of a privately run halfway house for defendants in federal criminal cases fired two employees suspected of taking bribes in exchange for allowing 10 defendants out one night last year.

The security breach at the motel like facility in east Baltimore was discovered in April after a supervisor’s overnight spot check, said Cecilia Griffin Golden, chief executive officer of Volunteers of America Chesapeake, which operates the halfway house. Residents usually are allowed to leave during the day to go to their jobs but are required to remain in at night.

The employees were new hires and still on probation, Mrs. Golden said. She said the organization tightened security and improved the screening and training of new employees after the breach was uncovered. The employees were fired in August.

The FBI investigated the incident, but no charges were filed, the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday, quoting law enforcement sources familiar with the probe.

Volunteers of America is seeking a 10-year renewal of the facility’s contract but the federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the status of its review.


Dogs, cats rescued from pet store fire

Dozens of pets were rescued yesterday during a two-alarm fire at a pet store.

Prince George’s County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said store employees were able to rescue about two dozen cats and dogs that had been left by their owners for grooming at the PetSmart on Oxon Hill Road. People in the area kept the pets in their vehicles until owners arrived to claim them.

One cat escaped during the evacuation and is still missing.

No people were injured in the fire. Firefighters were called to the scene about 11:15 a.m.

Mr. Brady said dozens of smaller pets in the store, including small birds, rodents and reptiles, were all deemed safe and taken to another PetSmart.


2 sentenced in killing at 16th birthday party

A Baltimore judge sentenced two teenagers yesterday for murdering a father at his daughter’s 16th birthday party.

Jamal Charles, 17, was sentenced to 50 years in prison and Dwayne Drake, 19, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder and committing a violent crime with a gun.

Bryant Jones was shot in April 2006 after Drake and Charles created a disturbance at the party, prosecutors said. They were asked to leave, but they came back and Charles shot Mr. Jones several times. Drake had given Charles the gun, they said.


Seven hospitalized after apartment fire

Seven persons were hospitalized after an apartment fire, including an infant who was dropped from a third-story window and into a neighbor’s arms.

Montgomery County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said the fire started at about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the three-level garden-style apartment building on Georgia Avenue.

He said before firefighters arrived, many residents used a ladder to escape.

Six adults and a 4-month-old baby were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and bruises they suffered while fleeing. None of the injuries is considered life-threatening.

Damage is estimated at $450,000. The cause of the fire remains under investigation



Relatives, injured to plan Tech activities

Relatives of victims and injured students will help plan activities at Virginia Tech on April 16, the first anniversary of the worst mass shooting by one person in modern U.S. history.

The university announced yesterday that President Charles W. Steger has named a 21-member committee to guide the events. Provost Mark McNamee will lead the panel, and other members include faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

Jay Poole, the head of Tech’s Office of Recovery and Support, said he expects the events to be “simple and solemn.”

The school has canceled classes that day in memory of the 32 students and faculty members who were slain by student gunman Seung-hui Cho, who later killed himself. Another two dozen were injured.


5 charged in theft of copper equipment

The government charged five persons from Hampton Roads with stripping copper equipment from cell phone towers and selling the metal to salvage dealers.

A release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Norfolk said copper grounding bars and wire valued at $270,000 were stolen from January through July of last year.

The metal was taken from 100 sites in nearly 20 areas of Virginia and northeast North Carolina.

The suspects from Suffolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach face federal counts of conspiracy and malicious destruction of communications lines and systems.

The indictment was unsealed Wednesday.


Prosecutors challenge death row change

Prosecutors have challenged a judge’s order that commuted a death row inmate’s sentence to life in prison in a case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court banning execution of the mentally retarded.

In a motion filed with the York-Poquoson Circuit Court this week, special prosecutor Mark Krueger requested a stay of Circuit Judge Prentis Smiley Jr.’s order, saying Judge Smiley didn’t have the authority to modify Daryl Atkins’ sentence.

In the motion, Mr. Krueger said he will appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court for an order prohibiting the Circuit Court from commuting Atkins’ death sentence.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Thursday.

Atkins spent a decade on death row for his conviction in the 1996 robbery and murder of Eric Nesbitt. Defense attorneys argued that Atkins should not be executed because he is mentally retarded. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2002 that it was unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded.


Ferret hoarder charged with cruelty

A woman whose home and barn were found crammed with live and frozen ferrets was charged with one count of animal cruelty.

Elaine McCraig was charged Wednesday after animal control officials removed more than 100 ferrets, a dog, a bird and three cats from her property. Carcasses of 89 ferrets, a rat, a cat and an otter were found in freezers in the garage and house.

Miss McCraig said she was running a ferret-rescue shelter but the task overwhelmed her after she became ill. She also said people brought their dead pets to her to be cremated, and she stored them in freezers because they were cheaper to cremate in bulk.

Sixty-one of the rescued ferrets had to be euthanized because of their poor health.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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