Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe's House Gets Worldwide Attention

By Cris Kaltenbach
 The Baltimore Sun

Native Londoner Kimberly Marie Freeman lives and works 200 miles north of Baltimore, but she's enthusiastically joining the effort to save one of the city's cultural treasures. Shutting the Edgar Allan Poe House, she says with a hint of exasperation, would be a shabby way to treat such an internationally renowned figure.

"There would be outrage in England if anyone ever considered shutting down Shakespeare's home," said Freeman, artistic director for New York-based Bedlam Ensemble, a performance group putting on several shows in Manhattan this month and next to raise money for the beleaguered museum. "I find it hard to believe there's not enough support for the Poe House to keep it open."

Plenty of Baltimoreans objected when the city, citing a budget shortfall that has reached $65 million, cut off funding for the Poe House and Museum last year. The famed author, who is credited with inventing the detective novel and popularizing horror fiction, lived in the Amity Street home from about 1832 to 1835.

But national and international interest is growing as well. This month, as Poe fans prepare to commemorate the 162nd anniversary of his death in Baltimore on Friday, fundraisers for his former home are being held in Washington and Falls Church, Va., as well as Manhattan. An online petition to save the Poe House includes names from France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Romania. Addressed to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, it has been signed by more than 6,000 people.

The man, it seems, has friends everywhere. And they're desperately trying to fill the void caused when city officials decided Baltimore could no longer afford the $85,000 a year it costs to keep the house open to the public. The museum's funding was cut in summer 2010, and this year, the city's Committee for Historic and Architectural Preservation was ordered to have a plan in place by July 2012 that would make the Poe House self-sufficient.

"If this Poe House closes, it will be viewed by many as a civic disgrace," said former Baltimore Sun reporter and Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore President Rafael Alvarez, whose "Pennies for Poe" campaign ( has raised nearly $500. "He's beloved here — he's beloved by people who have never even read him. That's Baltimore."

Fundraisers so far have pulled in about $20,000, said Jeff Jerome, the Poe House's longtime curator. That money has been applied to current operating expenses, he said, noting the house has been operating since the budget cut largely on money raised during the 2009-2010 Poe bicentennial celebration.

"My heart is constantly touched when I get these messages and these phone calls from Poe people saying, 'We're with you, what can we do?'" Jerome said.

The Poe House probably has enough money in its coffers to remain open through the current fiscal year, which ends July 1, 2012, Jerome said. A firm specializing in the management of historic properties has been hired by the city, at a cost of $45,000, to study ways of making the house and museum self-sufficient beyond then.

The Poe House, which has been owned by the city since 1979, is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to attracting tourists. It's not in an area visited frequently by tourists, and unlike the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, it's not within easy walking distance of an attraction like Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Poe House attracts some 5,000 visitors annually, about one-fifth the number who find their way to the Babe Ruth Museum.

The report is expected around the beginning of next year, said city planning director Tom Stosur, noting that all possibilities, including turning over the home to private ownership, are "on the table."

"We're going to need some significant funding help," Stosur said. "If the way to sustainability was not city ownership, I think we'd be open to looking at that possibility."

The $20,000 raised since February would pay for about a quarter of the museum's annual operating costs. Even if the events scheduled for this month double that, it clearly would be tough to keep the house open on donations alone. But Jerome hinted that larger-scale fundraisers could be on the horizon, once city officials decide on a plan.

"We don't know what they are going to come up with, what they are going to find, what they are going to suggest," he said.

Meanwhile, local efforts to raise money for the museum continue. The Lebanese Taverna restaurant in Harbor East will have a silent auction during its Halloween party. "Pints for Poe," a fundraiser organized as part of Baltimore Beer Week, is set for Tuesday at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown. "Portrait of Poe," a one-man, three-act play written by and starring Baltimorean Mark Sanders, will be performed over the next three weekends at Area 405. And the annual Halloween catacomb tours at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground — where Poe is buried — normally a fundraiser for the Westminster Preservation Trust, will benefit the Poe House this year.

"The Poe House has been a massive goodwill ambassador," said local actor Mark Redfield, who started the online petition at "It's a symbol of our culture, and it's a symbol for Baltimore."

And Friday night in Washington, four bands will take to the stage of the Velvet Lounge, at 915 U St. N.W., to support keeping the Poe House open. Organizers insist it's the least they can do for a writer who gave the world so much.

"It would be a complete tragedy if the Poe House were to lose its funding and Baltimore were to shut its doors," said Kai Hsieh, a 26-year-old graphic designer and co-organizer of the concert. "Poe has so much influence in music, television, the movies. His influence is endless."


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Announcer Ted Williams Backs Out Of Baltimore Fashion Week

Have you been wondering where he's been???

By John-John Williams IV
Baltimore Fashion Week may be under way, but the showcase of models and designers is missing its star announcer.

Due to contract disputes, Ted Williams, the homeless Ohio man with the golden baritone who became an overnight sensation earlier this year, won't be manning the microphone this weekend, organizers said Friday.

Fashion Week founder Sharan Nixon said she canceled Williams' contract because he made last-minute requests which soured the deal — accusations Williams' camp denies.

Williams signed a contract in March to announce the designers during the four-day event, which runs through Sunday. He was also scheduled to do radio spots and attend promotional events.

The arrangement fell apart earlier this month when Williams asked if Baltimore Fashion Week could also pay for hotel accommodations for his girlfriend, Nixon said.

"According to the contract, I was suppose to provide accommodations for him, his manager and bodyguard," Nixon said. "Then they started demanding other requests that were not in the original contract."

Alfred Battle, Williams' agent, said budget cuts were responsible for the severed contract.

"That was on the producer, Sharan Nixon," he said. "She called and said that she had to do some cut backs, and the budget she had for him had to be cut. We were really disappointed about that."

Battle said adding Williams' girlfriend to the mix might have also played a role.

"I told her that she would have to come," Battle said. "The two met each other in rehab. But her presence wouldn't have been a deal breaker for her. We would have put them in a room together, I don't want to contradict what she had to say. I don't want this to come off as a controversy. But this was due to budget cuts. It was due to her budget."

Williams' absence is the latest setback for Baltimore Fashion Week.

Eight days before the annual event was set to begin, Nixon announced that she did not have a venue to host her event. An initial agreement with H&S Properties Development Corp., the group responsible for developing the area, fell through leaving her without a location. Nixon later found the Scottish Rite Masonic Center north of the Hopkins Homewood campus.

Williams achieved instant celebrity in January after the Columbus Dispatch posted on its website a video interview of him where he demonstrated his voice by doing a mock radio announcement. The video hit YouTube and went viral — making him a household name. He has recorded voice-overs for various national brands and even been offered a job announcing at games for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nixon said that different personalities from local radio stations will be filling in for Williams, including Belinda Merritt from Magic 95.9, Tim Watts from Magic 95.9. and Mikel from Magic 95.9.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

GUILTY In The Stabbing Of Johns Hopkins Researcher

John Alexander Wagner
By Tricia Bishop
After less than three hours of deliberation Wednesday, a Baltimore jury found John Alexander Wagner guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery in the stabbing of Johns Hopkins researcher Stephen Pitcairn, who was attacked last year as he talked to his mother on a cellphone while walking home from Penn Station.

Wagner could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison at a hearing set for Oct. 21. His lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Gregory Fischer, said he plans to appeal the conviction.

"Mr. Wagner has adamantly maintained his innocence from the beginning," Fischer said.

Pitcairn's family members, who live out of state, wept as the verdict was announced. Aunts and uncles, as well as his parents and siblings, sat vigil throughout various portions of the trial, enduring as much testimony as they could. They declined to comment after the hearing, though Pitcairn's uncle called out, "Justice was served" as he left the courthouse.

They also praised the work of Assistant State's Attorney Josh Felsen after the hearing, telling him to "take care of the next family as well as you took care of us."

It was a bittersweet victory for the city prosecutor's office. Attorneys finally won a significant conviction against Wagner, who had repeatedly escaped serious punishment despite a lengthy criminal history, but it came at the cost of a promising young man's life.

"This victim … wasn't bothering anyone, he wasn't doing anything but walking to his home," Felsen told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday.

Pitcairn was two days shy of his 24th birthday on Sunday, July 25, 2010, the day he was killed. He spent the weekend with his two sisters in New York City for an early birthday celebration, then took a Bolt bus back to Baltimore, where he performed cancer research.

But as he walked along the 2600 block of St. Paul St. talking to his mother on his cellphone, he was targeted by Wagner and his girlfriend, Lavelva Merritt — who has pleaded guilty to her role in the killing and testified for the prosecution last week. They robbed Pitcairn, stabbed him and left him to die on the sidewalk.

Pitcairn's mother, meanwhile, frantically tried to find help from her home inFlorida after hearing the commotion. Gwen Pitcairn tearfully told jurors last week at the trial's opening that she pleaded for her son's safety to the voices demanding money from her son, a thousand miles away in Baltimore.

The murder was a focus of last year's Baltimore state's attorney race and helped challenger Gregg L. Bernstein unseat longtime incumbent Patricia A. Jessamy.

Bernstein held a campaign news conference on what would have been Pitcairn's birthday, railing against Jessamy's failure to keep violent repeat offenders off the streets.

"If the state's attorney had done her job ... Stephen Pitcairn might still be alive today," Bernstein said at the time, calling the murder "not just senseless, but preventable."

He said in a telephone interview Wednesday that his office was "extremely gratified" by the jury's verdict.

Joshua Eicher, part of a street-cleaning crew with the Charles Village Community Benefits District, pauses from his work to look at flowers and birthday cake left at a makeshift memorial in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. for Stephen Pitcairn. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / July 27, 2010)
"The defendant represents one of the focal points and objectives of our office, which is to successfully prosecute repeat violent offenders and ensure that they are incarcerated for substantial periods of time so that they do not continue to go through this revolving door and prey upon the citizens of Baltimore," Bernstein said.

Wagner, 38, has previous convictions for assault, theft and violating probation, though he was frequently allowed to remain free. And in at least one instance, prosecutors dropped robbery charges against him despite surveillance video evidence.

Merritt, 25, has at least five convictions on her record, most for drug offenses.

The case against Wagner largely relied upon her cooperation. Testifying against Wagner, she outlined a chilling scenario in which the couple set out looking for someone to rob. They came up behind Pitcairn and grabbed him, demanding money.

Wagner stabbed Pitcairn, and Merritt punched him after he fell, according to testimony. They took his iPhone and his wallet, a Christmas gift from his mother.

On the witness stand last week, Merritt said her boyfriend regretted the act. "All that over a phone," he reportedly said. "I didn't mean to do it."

Wagner's attorney argued throughout the weeklong trial that someone else was responsible for the murder, but the jury rejected that idea. They began deliberating about 3:45 p.m. and reached a verdict by 6:30 p.m.

They asked once to review video footage of two people running from the scene, and refused an offer to leave for the day shortly before 6 p.m.

"They want to stay," Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles J. Peters told attorneys. Within the hour, they had a verdict.

"It is clear, given the length of their deliberations, that they understood and accepted what we presented and, more importantly, what the evidence shows," Bernstein said afterward.

Peters ordered Wagner to stay in shackles as the decision was announced, and the jurors, polled one by one, affirmed the guilty findings.

Lavelva Merritt
Wagner was convicted of felony first-degree murder, which means Pitcairn's death occurred during the robbery, as well as conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and the robbery itself. He could be sentenced to an additional 40 years for the two robbery convictions.

He was acquitted of premeditated murder.

Merritt will likely be sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiracy and robbery convictions under her plea deal.

The cases against the two defendants were filed and prosecuted in just over a year, representing another of Bernstein's goals to "more quickly resolve all criminal cases" with the cooperation of the courts.

"It's not only a function of justice delayed is justice denied, [but also that] cases do not get better with age, they get worse," he said.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Man Pleads Guilty To Pushing Stranger Into Inner Harbor

Wayne Black
A 21-year-old Pasadena man pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Thursday for shoving a stranger who couldn't swim into the Inner Harbor in 2008 — an act previously characterized by one Baltimore judge as complete stupidity.

Wayne Black, who was 18 when he pushed 22-year-old Ankush Gupta into the water and ran, will be sentenced to four years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 30, per an agreement cut with Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock.

His mother dabbed tears from her eyes as the deal was done, while Gupta's friends and family sat stone-faced on the other side of the courtroom.

"That is not justice," Saneel John Masih said after the hearing. He and Rohit Gupta were longtime friends of Ankush, more like brothers than buddies, they said.

They were devastated by his death and disgusted by Black's deal, which the family was informed of shortly before it was struck. They were hoping for a murder conviction rather than manslaughter, and a prison term of at least 10 years.

A spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office said prosecutors pushed for a 10-year sentence, the maximum allowed for involuntary manslaughter, but that the judge reduced it to four years, based on sentencing guidelines.

"We, as a victim's family, have no authority whatsoever," said Rohit Gupta, who is not related to Ankush. Black "intentionally pushed [Ankush] into the water; it was a murder."

In late August 2008, on their way back from a day trip to New York City, Ankush and Rohit Gupta and several other friends had stopped at the Inner Harbor after midnight to stretch their legs. Ankush took a stroll by himself, then disappeared. His friends heard only a scream and a splash.

Rescue divers pulled Ankush's body from the water hours later. He had drowned.

His friends suspected that Ankush was pushed, though two years would pass before their suspicions were confirmed. A tipster told police in September that Black, a high school dropout who had been at the harbor that night skateboarding, was involved.

Prosecutor Charles Blomquist filled in the gaps Thursday during the plea hearing, quoting from a confession Black gave authorities.

Ankus Gupta
"'I walked up, and I pushed him into the water,'" Black told police. "'I came up behind him and I pushed.'"
Added Blomquist: "The victim did not know how to swim."

Black's attorney, Howard Cardin, said his client has been choked with guilt and last year confided in a friend who alerted police.

"It's a tragedy, an absolute regrettable tragedy," Cardin said, adding that a judge previously called the prank "stupid." "Obviously, we're very apologetic to the family."

Black's mother said she would give anything to reverse the past.

Ankush Gupta's family said he was their best hope for the future.

At 22, he was the only child still living at home in Montgomery County with his parents, who emigrated from India when Ankush was 12. He cared for them, delivering medication to his disabled father, Anoop, and shared his dreams of being a NASA engineer with his mother.

Ankush was about to enter his junior year at the University of Maryland, College Park on an engineering scholarship when he was killed, his friends said. They described him as bright, selfless and hardworking.

"He wasn't doing all this for himself," Masih said. " He was just doing it for his mom and dad."
Ankush's mother, Meena Kumari Gupta, cried after the hearing. She held a photo of her son kneeling before a bed of orange and yellow tulips.

Her statement, which was translated into English, asked that Black be severely punished. She never got to read it in court.

"This man must learn from his mistakes," it said. "He has broken up a family who has nothing left in America. He killed our American dream and our son."


Friday, July 8, 2011

Federal Authorities Seek email Accounts in Missing-teen Investigation

By Justin Fenton
Baltimore Sun

Authorities searching for the killer of North Carolina teen Phylicia Barnes obtained search warrants for email and Facebook accounts belonging to her and at least three other people, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

The documents, filed by an FBI special agent assigned to the state's child exploitation task force, say authorities are seeking access to the accounts as part of a child pornography investigation and sexual exploitation of a minor, though the affidavits that spell out that angle remain sealed and agencies involved in the case refused to comment.

Legal experts say the move does not necessarily mean that the case has a sex crime element, but that evidence of sexually explicit material discovered during the investigation is being used as an entry into computer accounts that could provide new insight into her death. Barnes was 16 years old at the time of her disappearance.

"They're likely using that to hammer some people on the [the potential of sexually explicit material] and will use that to hammer back and find out how she died," said Harold Copus, a retired FBI agent who is not involved in the case.

The warrants seek access to two Yahoo email accounts and one AOL email account that include Barnes' first name, along with her Facebook page, records show. The court filings show for the first time some of the secretive tactics being employed by investigators, who have been tight-lipped about the case and publicly have said they have few leads.

In the May 10 federal court filing, unsealed on June 30, FBI Special Agent Jacqueline Dougher, who works from the Baltimore field office with the state's child exploitation task force, also requested access to three other Facebook pages and four other email accounts that appear to be associated with Baltimore men. At least one is linked to a man with the same name as a man previously interviewed by police.

Police have interviewed and reinterviewed those who were among the last to see Barnes alive, and the targets of the search warrant indicate that police are not through with those people. Their identities could not be confirmed, however, and emails sent by The Baltimore Sun to the accounts listed in the search warrant were not returned.

The documents say that authorities "have reason to believe that" within the accounts there is evidence related to a violation of "sexual exploitation of children" and "distribution and possession of child pornography."

The U.S. attorney's office for Maryland, the FBI, and state and city police declined to comment.

"It would be inappropriate at this point to discuss the criminal investigation or do anything that could jeopardize the case down the road," said Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

Russell Barnes, the girl's father, said authorities contacted him Wednesday night to inform him that the documents had been made public. But he said officials did not offer any insight into how child pornography relates to the case.

"They said some people weren't being truthful, and they had to go get some search warrants," he said.

"They've got it wide open to see what happened."

Barnes, who was from Monroe, N.C., went missing in late December while visiting her older sisters in Northwest Baltimore.

She planned to go to college here after graduating early from high school, where she was an honors student and ran track. Authorities said she vanished without a trace, until her nude body was found floating in the Susquehanna River in April.

Maryland State Police and city police are jointly investigating, and the FBI has provided assistance since the early stages. Authorities have not disclosed how she died.

Authorities must have probable cause to obtain the search warrants based on the sexual exploitation and child pornography statutes.

"It's ordinary practice for law enforcement to get search warrants on everybody and anybody who's related to it to see if there's other evidence of other crimes," said Andrew Alperstein, a Baltimore defense attorney who is not involved in the case. But, he said, "a tip is not enough for a judge to issue a search warrant — there has to be reliability to it and probable cause that a crime occurred."

"This is a very high-profile case, and I'm sure law enforcement is using every tool available to them," Alperstein said.

Copus, the retired FBI agent, believes the new search warrants, along with the fact that Barnes' body was found nude, suggests that there is a sex crime element to her death.

"Her being nude will tie back to that eventually," Copus said.

But for now, he said, investigators are casting a "wide net."

"They've got three or four names there that may have communicated with that girl, and they're casting a wide net, trying to find out if they have something else," Copus said.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Baltimore~ Best Friends Fatally Struck By Vehicle

By Steve Kilar
They were best friends since kindergarten and lived a block apart in South Baltimore's Pigtown. One was feisty, the other shy. Monday night, they set off to meet an acquaintance, crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

A car heading south struck Courtney Angeles, 16, and Emerald Smith, 17, at West Pratt Street and sped off without stopping, according to city police. The teens were rushed to nearby Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they died early Tuesday, nine minutes apart.

You could never separate them two," said Courtney's sister, Stephanie Angeles.

On Tuesday, two groups of tearful family and friends gathered at the victims' rowhouses, one on James Street, the other a block away on Glyndon Avenue.

Outside Courtney's home, mostly young mourners smoked cigarettes to calm their nerves. At Emerald's house, parents with young children cried on the sidewalk. They recalled how close, and how different, the companions were.

As 18-year-old Angeles put it, when it came to Courtney and Emerald, "opposites attracted." Courtney was "feisty," she said, and Emerald was "more shy."

Police said the accident occurred about 11:40 p.m., just minutes after the teens had departed. They were hit while trying to cross the four southbound lanes of the divided thoroughfare. Police said the preliminary investigation shows they were in the crosswalk at West Pratt Street.

Angeles died at 12:10 a.m. and Smith at 12:19 a.m.

Detective Jeremy Silbert, a city police spokesman, said that shortly after the accident, Maryland Transportation Authority police stopped a car for an unrelated traffic infraction near BWI Airport. The officer noticed damage on the car and detained the occupants, Silbert said.

Baltimore police accident investigators have interviewed the suspects and are consulting with the Baltimore State's attorney's office before filing charges. Silbert also said the investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from red light cameras.

Randall Scott, traffic chief for Baltimore's Department of Transportation, said the intersection is not considered to be especially dangerous. He said the city has put in more visible street signs, installed red light and speed cameras and increased signal time for pedestrians to cross the wide street.

But Whitney Reed, who lives near Pratt and MLK and heard the crash as she was going to sleep, said car accidents and emergency vehicles with sirens blaring are commonplace in the area. "I didn't think anything of it," the 23-year-old said of the accident. "There was a lot of screaming."

News of Courtney and Emerald's death spread fast in the neighborhood near Carroll Park. By 3 a.m., Courtney's cousins Amanda Channell, 22, and Brittani Channell, 19, were in the car, heading up from their home in North Carolina to Baltimore.

Courtney Angeles' sister Stephanie Angeles, 18, of Baltimore mourns with their cousins Amanda Channell, 22, and Brittani Channell, 19. In the background is family friend Harold Hughs, 25, from Baltimore. (Steve Kilar, Baltimore Sun / June 14, 2011)
They arrived at Courtney's home six hours later and immediately joined the streetside mourning for the girl they all agree, even though she was the youngest, was the leader among them. Smiles broke out as Amanda Channell recounted how, as a child, Courtney pooled their change and escorted them all on candy-buying trips to the local penny store.

"She did anything for anyone," said Amanda Channell. "That's why she was walking Emerald to meet her friend."

Courtney was bright, a gifted artist and loved reading, said Brittani Channell. She especially enjoyed vampire novels, she said.

"She was Team Edward," said Amanda Channell, explaining Courtney's preference for the vampire character over the teen werewolf in the popular Twilight series of books and movies. But it was Taylor Lautner, who played the werewolf, that "Courtney thought … was hot," she said.

Courtney attended Maritime Industries Academy High School and would have entered the 10th grade in the fall.

Emerald's mother, Mary Kay Smith, said that the two girls had been friends since kindergarten. "She was a very loving, caring person," Smith said of her daughter. "She had a heart as big as gold."

Smith said Emerald was inspired to help people, and long ago decided she was going to be a bone marrow donor.

"She wanted to give the gift of life if she could," Smith said. Doctors were studying her body for potential organ donation. "She's going to donate whatever she can donate," said Emerald's mother.

As people trickled out of their homes to give their condolences on Tuesday, the teens' families formed ad hoc receiving lines and exchanged hugs with neighbors.

"I'm still expecting to wake up from this bad dream," Smith said.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Second Body Found In River Not Linked To Phylicia Barnes Case

Jessica Anderson
 The Baltimore Sun

The body of a Virginia man found less than four miles from where Phylicia Barnes' body was spotted has ended in another roadblock for investigators, who said Tuesday that the two deaths are not related.

Darryl Harper, 53, of Richmond, Va., was identified as the man found the same day that Barnes' body was pulled from the Susquehanna River on April 20. But investigators said they have found nothing to connect him to the teen or to her disappearance, according to Maryland State Police.

Detectives "were looking at this case as it was — two people who were found dead. They needed to determine how they ended up that way. I don't know that there was any kind of hope" that they were connected, state police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley said Tuesday.

"Investigators look at these things matter-of-factly," he said, adding, "They will continue to gather additional details on what led to his death."

State police matched fingerprints from Harper with prints entered in the National Crime Information Center database for missing persons. Police said Harper, who had been reported missing by his wife, had stayed at a hospital in southern Pennsylvania for mental health problems and had a history of attempting suicide.

Barnes, who would have turned 17 in January, went missing from her half sister's Northwest Baltimore apartment three days after Christmas. The search for her drew local, state and federal police into an investigation that baffled detectives, who, along with volunteers, searched through the city's Leakin Park and Patapsco Valley State Park.

Last week, crews working on the Conowingo Dam reported a body floating in the river; the body was identified as Barnes. She was found naked, without obvious signs of trauma to her body. Several hours later, boaters reported finding Harper's nude body in the river south of the dam, which prompted speculation that the two deaths might be related.

City police, who led the Barnes investigation for months, as well as the girl's family, said they had no reason to search the area around the river, which divides Cecil and Harford counties.
Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that identifying Harper was "an alley … we have to explore. At least now we can rule that out."

He said 12 state troopers are continuing to investigate Barnes' death, alongside city homicide detectives who have worked the case for months.

"Now we can focus on her death investigation. The next step is the cause of death," Guglielmi said.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not yet determined the cause and manner of death for Barnes and Harper, as they continue to perform tests. Dr. David R. Fowler, the state's chief medical examiner, would not comment further, citing the pending investigation.

Shipley said detectives are investigating the death of Harper, who was reported missing by his wife on April 15. She told police she last spoke to her husband in mid-March.

She told Richmond police that her husband left that city in early March to move belongings from their former apartment in Cockeysville. The couple moved to Richmond in February.

On March 25, she told police that a relative, who lives in the Harrisburg, Pa., area, called to tell her that Harper had checked himself into a mental health facility in Pennsylvania.

Police confirmed that he stayed in the hospital one night. According to his wife, Harper had told a relative in March he was going to jump off a bridge. She said her husband had attempted suicide in 2006.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snow Hill Man Shot At Glen Burnie Mall

 A 23-year-old Snow   Hill          man      was in stable condition at a Baltimore hospital Tuesday night after being shot outside Marley Station mall just before 12:45 p.m., county police said.

County police said the man was shot in the parking lot at the Glen Burnie mall during an altercation. They said it was not a random act of violence, but declined to offer any further explanation.

Police had no information on what the victim was doing at the mall at the time of the shooting.

The assailants, described as two black men, one of whom might have had dreadlocks, drove off in a dark gray Honda or a similar vehicle, south on Ritchie Highway.

Two male friends of the shooting victim drove the man south on Ritchie Highway in a Honda Civic to the Dunkin’ Donuts nearly a mile away. They then called police.

Firefighters and police officers responded to the doughnut shop and the victim was taken by ambulance to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with a gunshot wound to his upper torso. He was reported in stable condition last night.

At the shooting scene, officers and detectives blocked off an area about 50 yards long and including four rows of parking spaces near JCPenney and the food court. They were examining the area around a parked gray Infiniti.

Mall officials declined to comment, and refered all inquiries back to police.

Crime scene technicians took photographs and collected evidence. There were about 11 yellow evidence markers in and around the vehicle of interest.

Among the evidence gathered was one black tennis shoe, a black and white speckled composition book, a crumpled up plastic bag, and what was believed to be one shell casing sitting on the pavement next to the Infiniti’s driver’s side door.

The car also had several pages of paper, regular 8.5 by 11 sheets, stuck under the windshield. A few other pieces of paper were also strewn about and gathered by police.

Earlier at Dunkin Donuts, the copper-colored Honda used to transport the victim was parked with both doors open and a shirt sitting on the ground near the door.

The incident comes just weeks after a 61-year-old woman was beaten and robbed as she left the mall on March 3. A man was arrested and charged after being captured at a Brooklyn Park motel two days later.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The "Golden Voice" Ted Williams - The Voice Of Fashion Week In Baltimore

Ted Williams, the homeless Ohio man who became an overnight sensation earlier this year, will be bringing his "golden voice" to Charm City in August when he serves as announcer for Baltimore Fashion Week, the event's executive director, Sharan Nixon, confirmed.

Williams signed a contract Tuesday morning that results in him live announcing designers each day of the four-day event. In addition, Williams will do radio spots and attend promotional events associated with Baltimore Fashion Week, which runs Aug. 18-21.

"When we finally found his information, and his agent said he wanted to come, I just started crying because I couldn't believe it," Nixon said. "Having someone of his magnitude say they are willing to be a part of my event is just fabulous."

Williams achieved instant celebrity in January after the Columbus Dispatch posted on its website a video interview of him where he demonstrated his voice by doing a mock radio announcement. The video hit YouTube and went viral — making him a household name. He has recorded voice-overs for various national brands and he's been offered a job announcing at games for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Williams has also had his share of troubles, including being detained in Los Angeles by police after an altercation with his daughter, and a brief stay in rehab for alcohol abuse after appearing on "Dr. Phil."

Nixon said she is not concerned that Williams' personal troubles will affect his appearance at her event.

"His agent has assured me that he will be fine," she said. "There won't be any problems. Everybody has their problems in life. It is not my place to wonder if he is going to handle himself accordingly as a special guest of Baltimore Fashion Week."

Williams is excited to attend Baltimore Fashion Week, according to his agent, Alfred Battle.

"We have not been in the Baltimore area," said Battle, who has known Williams for the past 25 years. "Surely there are some people who have been touched and affected by his story in that area. We want to make a personal appearance by those people."

Battle stressed that Williams would be ready for his trip to Baltimore. In fact, Williams is scheduled to begin taping a reality television show "Second Chance At Life," which will chronicle his life as well as allow him to give other homeless people a chance at redemption, according to Battle.

"Ted is doing wonderful," Battle said. "He is living in a sober living environment in Los Angeles. He's doing a good job with it, too."
The addition of Williams is the latest in an attempt to elevate the event's image, according to Nixon.

In January, Nixon announced that she was moving the event back to Baltimore after holding it at the Sheraton Baltimore North in Towson. The new site — a parcel of land near the Morgan Stanley building in Harbor East — will provide Nixon with the type of location she envisioned when she first launched the event, she said.

To Read More>>>Overnight sensation Ted Williams to be the voice of Baltimore Fashion Week

Monday, February 7, 2011

Poe Museum May Have To Operate Without Public Funds

The long-time curator of Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe House says the museum could be forced to close if city officials stick to their insistence that it be well on the road to self-sufficiency by July of next year.

Baltimore officials — who last summer cut the Poe House's funding — have ordered the city's Committee for Historic & Architectural Preservation (CHAP) to settle on a plan to operate the museum without using public funds. The plan must be in place by July 2012.

"That's a big order," says Jeff Jerome, who has been curator since 1979. "I've been talking to other museums, and each and every one of them — first of all, when they stop laughing, they say, 'Jeff, you should have been doing this three years ago.' You just can't do this in a year."

The museum, in a North Amity Street home where Poe lived from late 1832 or early 1833 until 1835, operates on an annual budget of $85,000.

"We were in the middle of the worst budget crisis the city had faced in decades," city planning director Thomas J. Stosur said of last year's decision to cut funding. "When the sausage got made, certain things got funded and certain things did not."

Although funding for it was deleted from the current fiscal year's budget, the museum has remained open thanks to private contributions and money raised through such events as last year's 200th anniversary celebration of Poe's birth.

CHAP and the city hope to have an individual or group in place by spring to oversee the transition. "We want to have a fresh set of eyes, look at what our asset is today and at what the market might be," Stosur said. "One idea is to spin it off into its own non-profit, and perhaps put it under the umbrella of another museum or educational institution."

Poe, a Boston native who would die in Baltimore in 1849 under circumstances never fully explained, was 23 when he moved into the house, which dated to around 1830. His aunt, Maria Clemm, was the head of the household, which besides Poe included her mother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe, and daughter, 10-year-old Virginia Eliza Clemm. Poe left the home in 1835 for Richmond, where he edited the Southern Literary Messenger.

Most of Poe's reputation as a master of American mystery and suspense was built on writings penned while living in Richmond, Philadelphia and New York. But he is believed to have authored several stories and poems while living in Baltimore, including "The Visionary," "Morella" and "To Elizabath."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Maryland's Hand Gun Laws Upheld By Md. Court of Appeals

BALTIMORE - Maryland's highest court has ruled the state's handgun laws are still constitutional despite a 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that gutted gun statutes in D.C.

In an opinion issued Wednesday, the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed a gun possession charge levied in Prince George's County against Charles F. Williams, Jr.

Williams said the state's gun regulations violated his right to "keep and carry arms" under the Second Amendment, and based his argument in part on the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

The high court in that case said barring a person from possessing a handgun in the home is unconstitutional. Williams, according to the opinion, said the Second Amendment establishes the "right of persons to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes."

Williams also based his argument on another recent gun decision by the Supreme Court in McDonald v. City of Chicago. But the appeals court unanimously rejected his claims and upheld his conviction.

"The defendant wished to extend the Second Amendment beyond what the Supreme Court held in the Heller case -- that a person has an individual right to possess a gun in their home and for self-defense," says Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who argued the state's case before the appellate court last year.

"What this defendant said is, 'You shouldn't convict me for toting a gun on the streets of Prince George's County, because I have an individual right to carry a gun outside of the home,'" Gansler says.

The court specifically said the Maryland law governing Williams' conviction falls outside of the Second Amendment's scope, because it bars having a handgun in public.

The judges also said Williams did not have standing to challenge aspects of the state's gun permit statutes "because he had failed to even apply for a permit to wear, carry, or transport a handgun."

Gansler says no other state has changed its gun laws based on the Supreme Court's decision regarding the District.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Former Baltimore News Personality Arrested Second Time In Four Days

Former television news personality Dennis Edwards is being held in the Baltimore city jail after police arrested him a second time in four days in connection with a domestic violence case involving his wife, according to court documents.

A District Court judge on Monday set bail at $500,000 and scheduled a hearing for Feb. 2. The 54-year-old is charged with violating a protective order, telephone misuse, harassment and malicious destruction of property.

Police first arrested Edwards on Wednesday, Dec. 29, and charged him with assaulting his wife in their home on South Road. The woman told police that Edwards shoved her down and banged her head on the floor. He posted $20,000 bail and was released pending trial.

In an interview after his first arrest, Edwards called the incident an "unfortunate situation" and called the police account inaccurate. "It's not what it appears," he said then. "It's not accurate, nor is it true."

Court records shows that Edwards was arrested the second time on Jan. 1 by Baltimore Police Officer Brent R. Fleming. Further details were not immediately available.

Edwards served as a reporter for WJZ-TV from 1994 to Jan. 2009 and for two months as a spokesman for Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Attempt To Smuggle Cocaine and Heroin Into Baltimore By Cruise Ship Crew

On a frigid morning this month, customs agents lay in wait as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Enchantment of the Seas arrived in Baltimore.

Along with tourists fresh from a 12-day excursion to the Caribbean, agents were expecting the arrival of crew members attempting to smuggle drugs into the United States.

As soon as the vessel docked Dec. 18, agents pulled aside crew member Gavin Excell, 35, suspected by the ship's security officer of bringing drugs aboard. Customs agents say they found 700 grams of heroin and 300 grams of cocaine wrapped in duct tape and hidden in his waistband and shoes.

A criminal complaint filed Tuesday accuses Excell and two other cruise line employees — John Swart Garth and Kishurn Neptune, both 27 — of picking up more than a kilogram of heroin and 500 grams of cocaine in the Dominican Republic when the cruise ship stopped there Dec. 10, with the intention of delivering it to associates in Baltimore.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean International said it maintains a "strict zero tolerance policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships." The company said it "cooperated fully with authorities during this investigation and will continue providing any assistance necessary to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law."

Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean, could not immediately confirm whether the three men had been fired.

Marketed toward vacationing families, the Enchantment of the Seas began operating out of Baltimore last summer and features luxury amenities, six whirlpools, a rock-climbing wall and a solarium. The ship can accommodate 2,252 guests, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

According to the court filing, Garth and Neptune worked in the ship's galley, or kitchen, an area largely out of view of passengers.

Richard Scher, a spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration, which operates the cruise ship terminal, said safety at the Baltimore port has been improved, earning a near-perfect security assessment from the Coast Guard the past three years.

"It's always a concern whenever you have a case like this occur, whether it happens on land or in sea," Scher said. "But certainly when you've got a ship such as the Enchantment that is linked to the port of Baltimore, it's a concern."

According to an affidavit written by an agent from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and filed Tuesday in federal court, Excell told authorities he had picked up the drugs with Garth and Neptune from a Jamaican in the Dominican Republic and had been instructed to hand them over to a man named "Tony" at the Port Covington Walmart near the Cruise Maryland Terminal.

On the morning of Dec. 18, authorities said they saw Garth getting into and out of a black GMC Envoy with Virginia license plates outside the Walmart. Garth later told customs agents that he had been paid $4,000 to deliver three packages of drugs to Loxly Johnson, 48, and Shenika Graves, 34, who were inside the vehicle.

Johnson, a Jamaican citizen and legal resident of the United States, was stopped by customs agents on Hanover Street after leaving the Walmart lot. According to documents, agents found $8,000 in his car. Other agents approached Graves, who was still at the Walmart. In her purse, according to the affidavit, were three packages containing 700 grams of heroin and 300 grams of cocaine, also wrapped in duct tape.

Johnson and Graves face the same charges as the three crew members: conspiring to import drugs into the country.

Excell, a Jamaican citizen, is in federal custody in Baltimore and an arraignment is scheduled Jan. 7, said his attorney, Chris Purpura. He said his client will plead not guilty.

Johnson, also known as Desmond Williams, is in federal custody, said Joseph L. Evans, an assistant federal public defender. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has lodged an immigration detainer against Johnson, Evans said.

Graves' attorney, Thomas L. Crowe, said his client is a "solid citizen" and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"She has absolutely no criminal record," Crowe said. "She's never been accused of being involved in anything like this. She maintains her innocence."

Graves has been released, Crowe said, and is in Virginia with family.

Garth and Neptune were in federal custody Wednesday but had not been indicted, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore.

A task force of immigration and customs agents, police from Baltimore city and county, and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, was responsible for the investigation and arrests, said Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Industry experts said the arrests display the effective partnership in place between cruise lines and federal law enforcement.

Michael Crye, executive vice president of the Cruise Line International Association, a trade group, said cruise companies have formal agreements with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security so security staff can report any incidents or suspicions regarding passengers or crew.

"The fact that the system seemed to work properly in this case is a good indication that the ship was maintaining its vigilance and doing the right thing," he said.

Cruise lines typically screen passengers, crew and their belongings when they get on and off the ship, but do not conduct a thorough search of each person boarding, Crye said.

In October 2008, a British citizen was caught trying to smuggle 20 kilograms of cocaine into Britain as a passenger on a cruise ship that sailed from St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Last August, he was sentenced to 101/2 years in prison, according to news reports.