4:14 PM EST, December 13, 2012
Victor Levi Colbert allegedly stabbed Rodney Smith to death in Smith's Bel Air apartment, an assistant state's attorney said during Smith's bail review hearing Wednesday in Harford County District Court.
Colbert, whose turned 31 on Dec. 3, was arrested Tuesday morning at his home in Dundalk and charged in the death of Mr. Smith, 52, whose body was found Sunday in his home at 204 A Baltimore Pike in Bel Air.
Colbert is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault.
"The victim was found in his bedroom with stab wounds, wounds to his neck," Assistant State's Attorney Kemba Lydia-Moore told District Court Judge Susan Hazlett, who presided at the bail hearing.
Lydia-Moore said a vodka bottle with Colbert's fingerprints on it was found in the bedroom, which is how he was identified by police investigators.
Cricket Wireless confirmed that Smith got a call at about 10:51 p.m. on Saturday night from Colbert, according to charging documents.
A woman, who was in Smith's home, told police Smith called her at about 11 p.m. telling her that a black male was in his apartment and the person wanted to sell and use crack cocaine. He then told her he was OK and hung up.
A small amount of crack cocaine was found in the home on a kitchen chair, as well as burnt residue on the kitchen table, according to charging documents.
"He is a danger to the community," she said, noting Colbert is currently on probation for possessing drugs with intent to distribute.
He also has six prior convictions and a pending drug case, she said.
Colbert, who was on a closed circuit TV feed from the Harford County Detention Center, started to say the charges were "trumped up" before public defender Bruce Andres stopped him.
"Just the nature of the charges say 'Don't give him bail,' but that is not fair," Colbert then said.
Hazlett ordered that Colbert continue to be held without bail at the detention center. The judge cited his current probation cases as the reason, pointing out he was out in the community on parole when he was arrested in connection with the Smith killing.
Andres said Colbert single, has no children and lives with his mother.
He received a GED in Westminster in 1998 and also studied elementary education at Morgan State University. He last worked with a demolition company in Baltimore and has been in Maryland his whole life, including living two years in Harford County, Andres said.
Colbert was arrested at his home in the 100 block of William Wade Avenue in Dundalk, according to a Bel Air Police statement issued early Tuesday evening, which said the investigation leading to the arrest was a collaborative effort between Bel Air Police and Harford County Sheriff's Office. The Maryland State Police Warrant Apprehension Task Force assisted in the arrest.
Mr. Smith, a former Connecticut resident, was found dead in his apartment at 204 A Baltimore Pike at 8:20 a.m. Sunday. Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said Tuesday the death was being investigated as a homicide.
Matrangola also said there had been no sign of forced entry to Mr. Smith's apartment.
A final determination of the cause and time of death are pending an autopsy report from the Office of the State Medical Examiner. Matrangola had said he expected the report by early next week.
Criminal justice system contacts
Maryland electronic court records show Colbert has had extensive contacts with the criminal justice system dating to 1999 when he was 18.
He pleaded guilty Jan. 18, 2000 in Harford County Circuit Court to attempted robbery in a case where he faced a total of 18 similar counts including burglary, attempted armed robbery, assault, a gun law violation, and malicious destruction of property. Under the plea arrangement, court records indicate, the other 17 charges were dropped.
On July 31, 2003, he pleaded guilty in Harford County Circuit Court to drug manufacturing or distributing and was sentenced to serve 10 years, on line court records say.
On Feb. 16, 2005, Colbert pleaded guilty in Harford County Circuit Court to possession of drugs with the intention of distributing them and was sentenced to serve five years of a 12 year term with the balance being suspended or credited for time served. At the time, he was listed as having a Perryman address, court records say.
In September 2005, while incarcerated in the Western Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, he was charged with second degree assault on a correctional officer and second degree assault, though court record say the charges ended up being dropped.
On Aug. 8 of this year, he was charged with driving without the require license or authorization, a case in which he was granted probation before judgment, a finding of guilt, court records say.
Less than two weeks before he was arrested on the murder charge Tuesday, Colbert was charged by criminal summons on Nov. 30, 2012 in a Harford County case with possession of marijuana, possession of a drug other than marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia, on line court records say. A preliminary court date of Feb. 20, 2013 in Harford County District Court had been set in that case.
Mayor compliments police response
Bel Air mayor Eddie Hopkins said via e-mail Wednesday that Bel Air has an aggressive police response to serious crimes..
"Aggressive patrol, response and investigation by the Bel Air Police Department, using resources from the Harford County Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police, resulted in an arrest within 48 hours of the crime," Hopkins said.
"While this may not totally lessen the anxiety of our residents, it should provide a sense of relief knowing that our police quickly removed a violent offender from the community and one we believe will be held accountable for the victim's death," he said. "I have every confidence that Bel Air remains a very safe community."
Hopkins noted Bel Air has been "extremely fortunate" to have so few violent crimes and the current pace is not the norm.
"It is disappointing, though, to have seen several murders committed within a short period of time," he said. "Having said that, our community needs to understand (and I think they do) that Bel Air, like many other communities throughout the nation, are not immune from crime."
What matters in this case, Hopkins wrote, is "an aggressive investigative response by police."
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