Prosecutors may have partly solved the puzzle of who stole 64 valuable, antique stained-glass windows from the estate of the Maryland man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper.
Clark Wayne Elrod, 53, of 139 Strong Farm Lane, Queenstown, entered an Alford plea Friday in Queen Anne's County Circuit Court to a misdemeanor count of conspiring to steal property valued at less than $1,000 from the estate of Robert W. Kearns.
In exchange, a prosecutor dropped a felony count of theft of property with a value of between $10,000 and $100,000.
Because he entered an Alford plea, Elrod didn't admit that he was involved in stealing the collection of windows, which, according to one estimate, were worth roughly $3.5 million. They were stored in 75 crates in an outbuilding on the Kearns estate, and were discovered missing in 2012. But, Elrod acknowledged in court that prosecutors had enough evidence against him to secure a conviction.
Queen Anne County State's Attorney Lance Richardson said that he agreed to the plea because the evidence against Elrod was circumstantial, because he might have had help in stealing the windows, and because he sold them to a third party for somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000 — a small fraction of the collection's true value.
Elrod received a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison from Judge Sidney Campen, so he won't serve any jail time for the theft. He also was placed on three years probation and was ordered to pay court costs of $145.
Kearns' heirs are trying to retrieve the window collection, which ended up in Minnesota. That case is pending in federal court.