25 years ago: Harford gearing up for July 4th in Bel Air, Kingsville, HdG

From The Aegis dated July 2, 1987:

With just a few days to go, Harford County was gearing up for the Fourth of July celebrations 25 years ago.

Bel Air was kicking off the Independence Day holiday with the pancake breakfast and a day full of events, including turtle races, frog jumping, watermelon eating and horseshoe pitching.

Residents and visitors would get a break until the evening, when the parade was set to take off down Bond Street.

In between Bel Air's events were the Kingsville and Havre de Grace celebrations, both of which featured parades.

Fireworks were to round out the night in Bel Air and in Havre de Grace.

An animal show over five days at Tollgate Mall 25 years ago caused a stir among adults and children who may have held the tiger, lion or leopard cubs on display.

Anyone who was scratched by any of those animals was encouraged to see their doctor about possibly beginning rabies treatments. A Maryland Forest, Park and Wildlife Service representative said the cubs, despite having been inoculated by a local vet, could still have been carrying the rabies virus. The rabies incubation period for post exposure from a wild animal could be as long as six months.

"We have no idea where they had been housed or what other animals they may have come in contact with," Mark Hooper of the wildlife service, said.

The pilot of a small private plane was safe after he landed on I-95 near White Marsh 25 years ago this week. No one was injured on the ground, either.

The plan landed in the lanes for northbound traffic on the interstate around 4 p.m., just as rush hour was beginning, then pulled to the side of the highway.

Some Harford parents were unhappy 25 years ago with how the Harford County Sheriff's Office was handling – or not handling, as the case was - numerous reports of child sex abuse.

Parents said the agency was "unresponsive" in communicating the status of investigations into at least two unrelated cases of child sex abuse. Families were being disrupted by children having nightmares over the alleged incidents and parents enraged that no headway was being made.

"Our children now have psychological problems as well as us parents, and we as parents need help in coping with the this devastating nightmare," one parent said. "Through much frustration by not being informed, now anger has set in."

Sheriff Dominick Mele said investigations were continuing in all the agency's cases, all 32 reported in the first six months of 1987. He tried to assure the parents by telling them the most important thing was to make sure the child was no longer in a dangerous situation.

Another recent high school graduate was killed 25 years ago this week in a car accident. Stephen Diggin, a Bel Air High grad who lived on West Court, died in a single-car crash on Patterson Mill Road. A former part-time employee at The Aegis, he was the 19th person killed on Harford roads in 1987.

The 18th fatality on Harford roads occurred earlier the same day, when Sgt. Jowel Jasmin, 19, stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was driving his 1984 Mazda RX7 on I-95 at speeds more than 70 mph when a tire blew, he lost control of the car, crossed the median and hit the rear trailer of a two-trailer rig.

The "Phantom Fondler" made his 15th visit in Harford 25 years ago, this time lying on the floor next to the woman's bed she shared with her husband.

The woman, who lived in Abingdon, had gotten up to see why her baby was crying and found the man on the floor. She screamed and the fondler ran out of the house.

Unlike other instances, the fondler didn't touch the woman. His exploits had been drawing media attention from as far away as Hawaii.

Circuit Court Judge Brodnax Cameron Jr. ,65, announced this week 25 years ago his intent to retire in November after 10 years as judge. At the time, he was the oldest and most experienced judge on the Harford bench. His retirement came within a year of the retirement of Judge Albert P. Close, who was replaced by Maurice Baldwin.

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