Tuesday, January 9, 2007



Last of arsonists gets nearly 4 years

One of five men who took part in setting fire to dozens of homes under construction in a Charles County subdivision in 2004 was sentenced Friday to nearly four years in prison by a federal judge.

Roy T. McCann Jr., 23, of Waldorf, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit arson for his role in the arsons at Hunters Brooke in Indian Head. The early morning Dec. 6, 2004, fires caused $3.27 million in damage — the largest residential arson in Maryland history.

McCann was tried last year on arson charges, but the jury could not reach a verdict.

U.S. District Judge Roger Titus sentenced McCann to three years and 10 months in prison for the conspiracy plea and ordered him to pay $3.27 million in restitution.

The four other men either pleaded guilty or were convicted in the case. The ringleader, Patrick S. Walsh, was convicted of arson and received the stiffest sentence, nearly 20 years in prison.


Man gets 10 years for killing girlfriend

A Montgomery County man was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend.

In return for Ernest Todd Botelho’s guilty pleas to manslaughter and a weapons violation, prosecutors dropped a charge of first-degree murder.

Botelho, 38, of Rockville, was given a concurrent sentence of 15 years, with all but five suspended, for using a handgun in the commission of a felony. He likely will spend at least 8 years behind bars, Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith said.

Botelho was arrested in August for the May 7 shooting of Joy Buttrey, 34, at the Frederick town house they shared.

Initially, Botelho told police that Miss Buttrey had committed suicide. But two days later, he told Frederick County sheriff’s deputies that it was possible that he “unintentionally shot her.”

Mr. Smith said investigators could not find proof of premeditation to support the murder charge, “but certainly he was grossly negligent and needed to be held accountable for the manslaughter charge.”


Drug dealer sentenced to 27 years in prison

A man who conspired with his brother to create a large drug enterprise over a 10-year period was sentenced yesterday to 27 years in federal prison.

Raeshio Rice, 34, pleaded guilty in October to racketeering conspiracy and drug conspiracy charges, along with his brother Howard Rice.

The Rice brothers were charged along with 11 others in a February 2005 indictment.

From 1995 to 2004, the Rice brothers conspired to distribute large amounts of cocaine and heroin in Baltimore, federal authorities said. Their organization also took part in contract murders to protect their turf.

The Rice brothers admitted that their organization was responsible for distributing more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and more than 30 kilograms of heroin in the Baltimore area.

Eric Hall, 35, has been accused by federal prosecutors of being a “hit man” for the organization. His trial is scheduled for October. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty in the case.


Teacher charged with sex offenses

A teacher at Glenelg High School in Howard County was charged this weekend with sex offenses involving two female students.

Joseph Ellis, 25, of Elkridge, was released on bond.

The girls, ages 16 and 17, reported to school officials that Mr. Ellis had been sending sexual text messages to their cell phones, police said. The older girl later told police that Mr. Ellis exposed himself last month while they were alone together in a classroom and that Mr. Ellis tried to force her to touch him.

The younger girl told police that she met Mr. Ellis in a park last summer and that he committed a sex offense against her.

Police said they are investigating a report that he also sent inappropriate messages via computer to a third girl.



Death row inmate pleads not guilty

A man on death row for the murders of a Richmond family pleaded not guilty yesterday to the December 2005 slaying of a mother of three.

Ricky Jovan Gray, 29, of Arlington, is scheduled to stand trial July 30 on a charge of first-degree murder in the killing of Sheryl Warner, 37, who was found hanging in her burning basement on Dec. 18, 2005.

Gray’s attorney, Kevin Smith, told Culpeper Circuit Judge John R. Cullen that he plans to move for a change of venue. Judge Cullen scheduled a March 28 date to hear arguments on that motion and whether to allow a camera in the courtroom.

Miss Warner is one of nine persons whom authorities think Gray killed during a rampage from November 2005 to January 2006. In October, he was sentenced to death for the 2006 New Year’s Day slaughter of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their daughters Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4.

Ray Joseph Dandridge, Gray’s nephew and accomplice, was sentenced to life in prison in September for the Jan. 6, 2006, slayings of Percyell Tucker, 55; his wife, Mary Baskerville-Tucker, 47; and her daughter, Ashley Baskerville, 21.

The men said Miss Baskerville was an accomplice in the Harvey slayings.

In September, the two were sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 2005 New Year’s Eve slashing assault of an Arlington man.


Students plead guilty in N.Y. paint throwing

Three Roanoke County high-school students who threw gallon cans of paint off a New York City hotel roof across from a Manhattan police station pleaded guilty yesterday to a misdemeanor charge.

Tyler Moses Moore Jr. and Sean McGhee, both 18, and Brittany Goldberg, 17, all of Roanoke, entered their pleas in Manhattan Criminal Court to a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. Each was sentenced to a conditional discharge.

The teens, in New York City on an art field trip, were arrested May 7. They were part of a group of students from Roanoke County’s Cave Spring and Hidden Valley high schools.

Police said seven cans were dropped off the roof of the 20-story Doubletree Hotel, causing more than $1,500 in damage to two police cars, two police scooters and an officer’s personal vehicle. One officer was treated for an eye injury.

The students initially were charged with felony criminal mischief.

Judge John Burke said each teen must pay restitution of $1,318, do 200 hours of community service, and write — by hand — letters of apology to two specific officers, to all 17th Precinct police and to the Doubletree Hotel.

Judge Burke told the three to return June 14 and show they had complied with the sentencing conditions. If they have, they will be given youthful-offender status and their cases dismissed and sealed.

The judge said they can perform the community service in Virginia.


Grants to help BRAC-affected areas

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has announced that nine grants totaling $12.5 million have been awarded to localities affected by the federal Base Realignment and Closure decisions made in 2005.

Local programs being funded will address several areas, including addressing encroachment at or near military installations, creating transportation projects aimed at easing traffic congestion near bases, and establishing transition centers to help displaced workers and businesses.

The funding was approved last year by the General Assembly and will be adminis-tered by the Virginia National Defense Industrial Authority.

The biggest chunk of money — $7.5 million — goes to Virginia Beach for its efforts to keep Oceana Naval Air Station.

Other localities getting funding are the cities of Arlington, Alexandria and Hampton; Fairfax and Prince George counties; the Crater District Planning Commission; and the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance.


Student drug testing to begin soon

Voluntary random student drug and alcohol testing could begin as early as this week for some students in the Williamsburg-James City County school system.

Stephen Chantry, the school district’s executive director for student services, said that by last week about 44 percent of middle-school students and their families had signed up for the program along with 26 percent of high-schoolers and their families.

School officials say the technology will allow a medical lab to detect whether a student has consumed alcohol up to 72 hours before being tested.

The new type of test will ensure that if a student drinks on the weekend and is tested early in the week, it could still be detected.

The school board considered a mandatory program that would have tested all students, but approved the voluntary random drug testing program in March. The tests are paid for with a federal grant.


Norton makes plea against death penalty

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, yesterday outlined her opposition to the death penalty in a sharply worded letter to interim U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor.

“I believe that your office will continue to find it exceedingly difficult to get a jury of District residents to order the death penalty,” Mrs. Norton wrote.

The letter comes as prosecutors begin selecting a jury in the case of Larry Gooch, who is charged with killing five persons as enforcer for the notorious M Street Crew drug gang in Northeast.

D.C. law bars the death penalty, but capital punishment can be sought in the District in certain federal cases.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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