Carroll’s top breaking news stories of 2019: Shootings, deadly fire, Hampstead animal cruelty case define year
By Carroll County Times staff
Carroll County Times|
Dec 31, 2019 at 5:05 AM
Looking back at 2019, the Times has put together a list of the biggest stories from four categories based on significance as well as online readership. Over four days, we will present in roughly chronological order a look back at the stories that shaped the year in Carroll County business, education, government and breaking news.
As much as anything, 2019 in Carroll County was defined by the relentless onslaught of breaking news, often involving the loss of life, from the fire at a historic house in Sykesville that left two dead, to the Mount Airy man killed at the Great Frederick Fair, to the aggravated animal cruelty case in which 27 dogs were found dead and two Hampstead residents pleaded guilty.
Former Taneytown police Chief William Tyler pleaded guilty at a February hearing in the U.S. District Court of Maryland to one count of possessing and transferring a machine gun. “[Tyler] apologizes to the community and its hard-working citizens who he served for many years,” Tyler’s attorney Robert Biddle said in a written statement.
Tyler entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander. After his guilty plea the former police chief is faced with a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. His sentencing is planned for Jan. 14.
Tyler illegally possessed and transferred two .223 caliber, Ruger KAC556 model machine guns between Nov. 8, 2017, and Jan. 15 “in the District of Maryland and elsewhere,” and initially lied to federal agents that he had never fired the machine gun found at his residence and that he didn’t know it was an automatic rifle, according to a statement of facts prepared by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Tyler recanted when he spoke again with federal agents, this time with his attorney present.
According to police, Trooper First Class Tyler Michael, a six-year veteran of the state police who was assigned to road duties at the Westminster Barrack, was responding to a report of destruction of property in which the caller described a suspect later identified as D’Angelo, and said he was armed with a knife. The trooper encountered a man near Washington Road and Stoner Avenue in Westminster, and attempted to talk to him. The trooper then approached D’Angelo, a struggle ensued and D’Angelo stabbed the trooper at least once in the side, an MSP spokesman said. The trooper then fired.
D’Angelo was taken to Carroll Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The following month, State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said an investigation concluded the trooper had attempted to avoid using deadly force and had acted lawfully.
‘Disturbing’ scene included 27 dead dogs
In April, after a welfare check during which animal control workers discovered dozens of dogs, about a third of which had died, inside a residence near Hampstead, authorities were called to 4302 Black Rock Road, where they discovered what Sheriff Jim DeWees termed “one of the most disturbing scenes that many of the first responders have ever seen.”
A total of 27 dogs were found dead, and another 27 were in bad shape but alive. The living dogs were taken to the Humane Society of Carroll County, treated and eventually re-homed. The dead were mourned at a special service. The house was eventually demolished. And those found to responsible are incarcerated.
John J. Roberts pleaded guilty to 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty and was sentenced to 33 years in prison, with all but 11 years and 11 days suspended. Laura S. Filler, 56, also pleaded guilty to 11 counts of aggravated animal cruelty, but she is not scheduled to be sentenced until Jan. 17, according to online court records. She is being held until her sentencing.
Two shootings in Eldersburg
Two men were shot in separate incidents two months apart in Eldersburg.
In May, law enforcement responded to Retro Environmental Inc., a business located in the 5300 block of Enterprise St., for the report of a possible homicide. Upon arrival, they located Robert Gurecki, 56, on the floor of an office. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Gurecki was listed as president of the company on its website.
Police have not made any arrests as of Monday, though they are still investigating, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tim Brown said.
Ex-principal gets 22 years for producing child porn
In July, former Carroll County Public Schools teacher and principal Kenneth Brian Fischer, 41, formerly of Westminster, was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison and to undergo lifetime supervision for producing child pornography. Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Fischer in the U.S. District Court of Maryland after hearing statements from Fischer, a victim’s mother, Fischer’s father and testimony from a psychologist.
Under the plea agreement, Fischer faced a maximum of 25 years incarceration and a minimum of 15. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 18 to one count of producing child pornography. Before being sentenced, Fischer pledged to be a better person and said he would do all he could to serve the community.
Fischer, the 2006 Carroll County Teacher of the Year while a science teacher at Winters Mill High School and later the principal at Manchester Valley High School, was employed by CCPS from 2000 until days after his September 2017 arrest. He communicated with an undercover agent posing as an underage minor and attempted to solicit sex. Police then executed a search on his Westminster residence. Evidence from a seized cellphone revealed Fischer had been communicating with minors since approximately November 2014 and continuing until the time of his arrest.
Man runs car into Taneytown City Hall
Rodney Wayne Davis of Taneytown was arrested after police say he repeatedly rammed his pickup truck into City Hall on Aug. 30 after having his water service cut off. Davis was charged with one count of second-degree burglary, a felony, and one count each of second-degree assault, malicious destruction scheme of $1,000 in value or more, malicious destruction of property of $1,000 in value or more, and reckless endangerment, according to electronic court records.
Taneytown police arrested Davis after they found his blue Dodge Dakota pickup “halfway into the city office" and Davis still in the driver’s seat, according to charging documents. Multiple witnesses and video footage indicated that Davis had driven into the front of building and backed up to ram it again five times.
Taneytown Mayor Bradley Wantz released a statement calling it “nothing less than a terroristic attack," and noting that Davis could have seriously injured people had they been present in the office at the time.
Mount Airy man dies after assault
Mount Airy resident John Marvin Weed died after an assault at The Great Frederick Fair on Sept. 20. Weed, 59, was found lying unconscious on the ground near the midway area of the fairgrounds just after 5:36 p.m. that day, according to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. He was flown to Shock Trauma in Baltimore and died at about 4 p.m. Sept. 21. He was later mourned at a public vigil.
Two teens face charges in connection with the assault of Weed, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old. The 15-year-old defendant has been charged with manslaughter, first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault. The 16-year-old faces two counts of second-degree assault. The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s office filed waiver petitions on behalf of the state to move the teens’ cases to adult court.
According to Frederick County’s state’s attorney, the incident at the Frederick fair started when a group of young men, including the two defendants, who are brothers, asked Weed for a dollar at the fair and he refused. Some sort of “negative” dialogue occurred, the 16-year-old punched Weed in the back of the head, and then after a brief time the 15-year-old landed a “deadly blow.”
Historic house fire claims 2 lives
A man and a woman were found dead in a house fire in Sykesville in early November. The blaze burned a “historical property” in the 900 block of Raincliffe Road, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Maryland Historical Trust paperwork from 2004 refers to the house as the Dorsey House and estimates it was built around 1870.
A relative identified the deceased as Arthur Twigg, a retired United States Marine who enjoyed woodworking and Civil War re-enactments, and his wife, Carole, a talented cook who held the family together. The Twiggs served as sub-curators of the 19th-century house behind the mansion on the historic property.
Investigators did not find smoke alarms in the ruins of the home, according to a fire marshal spokesperson. That finding was disputed by a family member as well as the curator of the property.
14-year-old charged as adult with murder
In November, a 14-year-old from Manchester was charged as an adult after she allegedly plotted with her 13-year-old boyfriend to kill a relative of his as part of a “kill list” and then commit suicide, according to the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Alaina Jade Blake, 14, faces charges of attempted first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment, according to online court records. The boyfriend is 13 years old, the Sheriff’s Office said. His name was withheld in court documents because he is a juvenile. He was charged, according to the release, though police did not specify the charges.
According to the statement of charges, Blake and her boyfriend attacked a 56-year-old relative of his with a hammer and knife. The teens planned to murder the boyfriend’s relative, Blake’s grandparents and “possibly others,” as part of a “murder-suicide plot” in which Blake planned to ask her boyfriend to kill her once their list was complete, a senior state’s attorney said at Blake’s bail hearing.
Teresa Drury, 55, of New Windsor died May 16, 2018, from multiple blunt force trauma injuries, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Dolly and his wife Harley N. Keller, 29, lived in a split-level home with Keller’s grandfather and his wife, Drury. On May 12, 2018, Sheriff’s Office deputies went to the residence for a medical emergency call and Drury was taken to Carroll Hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to a statement of facts.
Authorities were told Drury injured herself from a fall in the shower, but a nurse informed police that Drury’s injuries were not consistent with that allegation. Keller pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to being an accessory after the fact to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months of incarceration suspended.