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50 years ago: Two sentenced to death in Harford robbery killing

August 8, 2012

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As taken from the pages of The Aegis dated Thursday, Aug. 9, 1962:

The death penalty was handed down to two Baltimoreans, Frederick Mefford and Earl Blackburn, in connection with the Route 40 robbing and shooting of a service station attendant. Death in the gas chamber was imposed. It was said to be the most severe penalty given in Harford County in the previous 40 years. Judge Stewart Day, in his sentencing statement said, "You have been found guilty of a cruel crime for a few paltry dollars ($70) with your victim suffering an agonizing death, some hours later, literally drowning in his own blood. You killed a man working late at night to support a wife and five children and therefore you must be eliminated from society for the protection of others." Similar charges face both Mefford and Blackburn in Baltimore County where another gas station operator was robbed and shot in April 1962.

The 43rd annual Harford County Fair was going to be held Aug. 22-25 with more than $19,000 in prize premiums being offered. Evening entertainment included: Bobby Brown and the County Musicmakers, The Farm Queen Contest, L.C. Smith and the Wizards, professional wrestling, and the Amateur Jousting Club of Harford County. Also included for your entertainment was a midway featuring Jerry's Rides and a Tuesday Kiddies' Day with all rides on the midway half price until 6 p.m.

The Mayor of Havre de Grace, James C. Vancherie, was punched in the mouth by an irate citizen. The 35-year-old Havre de Grace man surrendered to police after he walked into Vancherie's office and allegedly struck him. The mayor told police the man, wearing torn pants legs, asked, "Do you own a white shaggy dog?" When the mayor answered that he did, the man told him that the dog had just bitten him. After striking the mayor and hitting him in the mouth, the man allegedly replied, "If I see this dog again I am going to kill it." Vancherie went to Harford Memorial Hospital where he required several stitches and also received a tetanus shot.

The Capital Improvements Commission approved plans for a new county office building, to be located across from the courthouse in Bel Air. The only recommendation made to the existing plans was to build the front cellar wall in a way that a proposed tunnel under Main Street could be added at a future date. The architect for the building said that the plan could easily be incorporated in the plans. The Commissioners expressed their desire to begin the building immediately.

The J.P. Neill and Company, Inc., of Texas was laying 18 miles of natural gas line through Harford County in the right-of-way the company acquired some years before. The transcontinental gas line, from Texas to New York, supplies natural gas to the New England area. It stretches through the county from Madonna to Delta.

A new Harford County Liquor Law goes to a vote in November. A referendum vote will decide whether the sale of liquor by the drink at restaurants would be allowed to continue. A temporary law enacted June 1, 1961, allowed county restaurants to quietly serve drinks with meals. During that time there were no incidents or noise reported due solely to rowdy drinking patrons. In a sampling of county restaurants serving liquor with their meals, several said that their dinner business had increased with the addition of liquor.

Construction of the Northeastern Expressway was 3 percent ahead of schedule according to the State Roads Commission. Roadway construction was being performed under four separate contracts, two south and two north of the Susquehanna River. As of the end of July 1962 total work was 14 percent complete. The schedule called for the work to be only 11 percent complete at this same time. The Northeastern Expressway was expected to be opened to traffic in mid-November of 1963.

The Bel Air Track hosted a race that was believed to be the first dead heat between the progeny of the same sire. Both Red Smith and Heat Shield had been bred at the Country Life Farm, being sired by Saggy, whose most famous off-spring to date was Carry Back, winner of the 1961 Kentucky Derby, who ranked third all-time money winner.