December: Guilty plea in 2010 Bel Air murder; teacher bonus bungled

A 21-year-old Parkville man received a 25-year sentence for the July 18, 2010 shooting death of Derrick Maxey Jr. in the parking lot of the American Legion Post on Bond Street in Bel Air.

Rakim Raid Muhammad pleaded guilty to second degree murder and use of a handgun in a violent crime in the death of Maxey who was shot in the back of the head. The guilty plea and sentencing were the result of a plea bargain, as Circuit Court Judge Emory Plitt commented Muhammed was "looking to do a life sentence on the installment plan." Plitt also acknowledged the sentence could have been much harsher. "He's getting a break today," the judge said. "I'll be the first to say that."

Though the victim's father, the mother of his two daughters and other family members spoke at the sentencing, Muhammad declined the opportunity to speak. Prosecutors never said conclusively what the motive for the shooting was, but police who investigated the case said it might have been in retaliation for a 2007 street fight in Edgewood.

Public interest appeared to be scant in the final draft of the 2012 Harford County Master Plan, which was developed over the summer. Just 13 comments were posted on the county website during the latest comment period, as the plan was due to head to the county council after the first of the year. Most of the changes in the plan will affect the Fallston area and the area north and west of Havre de Grace, the latter where more development would be encouraged by the new plan.

As the county government moved to ban the use of tobacco products on all its properties, including outdoor parks and recreation fields, a few people testified against the proposed ban at a public hearing, saying that smokers have rights, too. As the year drew to a close, however, the ban was on track to take effect Jan. 1.

Flags flew at half-staff across the county, as Harford County residents and many veterans remembered the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the naval installations at Pear Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, the day of infamy that brought the United States into World War II.

Members of the county council grilled representatives of County Executive David Craig about his plan to give one-time $1,250 bonuses to all county government, sheriff's, library and school employees, part of a $32 million surplus from the 2010-11 budget. Council members said they were concerned at the size of the surplus, as some questioned why some of the money wouldn't be returned to taxpayers. Also spreading some doubt over the bonus was the refusal so far of two school unions, including the one representing teachers, to agree to accept the bonus without negotiating first with school officials.

A 21-year-old Edgewood man was found shot to death in a car in the Courts of Harford Square community on Dec. 8. Police said the death of Christopher Curtis Alves was being investigated as a homicide. The following day, three men, all with ties to the World's Most Dangerous street gang, were arrested by police, and two were charged with the Alves murder: Joseph Andrew Nelson, 20, of Fallston, and Coty Lamonte Wilson, 21, of Fallston. The third man was charged with handgun violations.

In Aberdeen, city police arrested a 62-year-old fugitive who was wanted in connection with a series of scams where police said he had allegedly received money to bring Baltimore Ravens players to school assemblies and other programs but had failed to deliver them. Joseph Myron Gill was arrested without incident at an Aberdeen motel where he had been staying. He was wanted in Queen's Anne County and in a number of Virginia counties.

Fire destroyed a home in the 2400 block of Bluefield Circle in Joppa on the evening of Dec. 12. Damage to the structure and contents, which included numerous vehicles including motorcycles, vintage automobiles and race cars, was estimated at $1.3 million. Five fire companies from Harford County and two from Baltimore County battled the blaze.

Jose Antonelli, a 79-year-old Havre de Grace resident, cashed a second tier Powerball lottery ticket worth $1 million. The lucky winner posed with his wife and daughter with a symbolic big check from the Maryland Lottery.

The Christmas season was in full swing in Harford County, with most homes sporting all sorts of colorful outdoor decorations and stores and local Christmas tree farms and stands doing a brisk business. On the evening of Dec. 12, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed visited Point Breeze Credit Union in Bel Air for a benefit to aid Toys for Tots.

Edgewood residents appeared poised to join their neighbors in Joppa in the fight to keep the county from locating a trash transfer station on the former Plecker property near I-95 and Route 152 in Joppa. County Councilman Dion Guthrie, who represents both communities, attended the Dec. 14 Edgewood Community Council meeting where he warned his county council colleagues were going to approve the Joppa site to keep the transfer station out of their own districts. Guthrie and others at the meeting said the station would lower property values and cause an increase in truck traffic on local roads.

A visiting circuit judge from Baltimore County threw out a lawsuit filed by Del. Rick Impallaria against Harford Sheriff Jesse Bane over the sheriff's refusal to get involved in a dispute between Impallaria and a local towing company. Impallaria had asked the court to compel Bane to bring theft charges against towing companies that hold people's property until their bills are paid, but the court ruled such powers vested in the sheriff are discretionary. The suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Impallaria cannot refile at the circuit court level.

The county council thought it had passed the funding to allow every county government, sheriff's, library and school employee to receive $625, half of the county executive's proposed bonus, before the Christmas holidays. Three days later, however, County Executive David Craig vetoed the $3.6 million earmarked for the school system's 5,400 employees, after he found the Harford County Education Association, the union representing 3,200 teachers and other school employees, was trying to use the bonus money as a bargaining chip for a permanent salary increase that had been denied the teachers in the current budget.

Craig's veto threw the whole bonus plan into a state of disarray. School officials soon acknowledged that in anticipation of receiving the money from the county, they had already paid the bonus to part of their workforce whose unions had agreed to accept the bonus as a onetime payment. They would not ask for the money to be repaid, school officials said.

With no county council meetings held the last two weeks of the year, the veto still stood as 2011 drew to a close. Both Craig and the council members did vow to find a way to give the bonus to teachers and other school employees, while several teachers went public with their displeasure at the union's leadership for its stand against accepting the bonus as a one-time gift.

While the county officials sparred over the employee bonus, Bel Air Town Administrator Chris Schlehr asked the Board of Town Commissioners to consider funding a 2 percent cost of living raise for all 96 of the town government's employees, effective at the start of 2012. Schlehr had requested the pay raise at the start of the current fiscal year on July 1, but the commissioners declined to approve the money necessary to fund it. The latest request was due to be taken up by the commissioners in early January 2012.

A Dundalk man was being held on $250,000 bail at the county jail after he allegedly drove off from a traffic stop in Edgewood with a sheriff's deputy hanging out the vehicle while it was being searched for possible drugs. William Scott Felzer was charged with attempted manslaughter, first-degree assault, several drug possession counts and traffic violations in connection with the incident on Dec. 9.

As the holiday season moved toward its climax, County Executive David Craig joined several Jewish congregation leaders and more than 100 other people for the second annual lighting of the Menorah in Bel Air Shamrock Park on Dec. 20, the first night of Hanukkah.

On the evening of Dec. 21 at the Bel Air United Methodist Church, the annual homeless memorial service was held to remember the six homeless people who died in Harford County during 2011.

The Aegis edition of Dec. 23 noted the recent passing of Dr. Alfred C. O'Connell, who was twice president of Harford Community College and was a key figure in the college's early development and in the growth of its campus.

For the 21st year, The Aegis Empty Stocking Fund was able to help hundreds less fortunate Harford County families, children and senior citizens have a merrier Christmas with gifts of toys, books, food and essentials. Just before Christmas, the fund had raised more than $77,000 this Christmas season and had also received donations of thousands of new toys.

Two days before Christmas, Assistant Harford County States Attorney Melba Elizabeth Bowen was appointed the county's newest Circuit Court judge by Gov. Martin O'Malley, who selected her from among five final nominees for the position. Bowen, who replaces the retired Judge Thomas Marshall, said she was "incredibly honored" by the appointment.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad