A number of high-profile criminal cases progressed through the court system in 2018.
Kenneth Fischer pleads guilty to child porn charge
After being charged on four counts in relation to solicitation of a minor in Virginia, former Carroll County Public Schools teacher Kenneth Brian Fischer was federally indicted in February 2018, with additional charges being added through a superseding indictment in the spring.
In May, a federal grand jury returned the superseding indictment against Fischer for production of child pornography, attempted production of child pornography, transportation of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and using a facility of interstate commerce to attempt to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity.
On Dec. 18, Fischer pleaded guilty to count one of the superseding indictment, which was for the production of child pornography. The charge stems from a November 2014 incident involving a minor male.
Fischer’s plea deal requires a minimum sentence of 15 years, with a maximum of 25 years. Upon release, he will be required to register as a sex offender.
Fischer will be officially sentenced on May 20.
Bret Wheeler sentenced for first-degree murder
Bret Wheeler, a New Windsor resident found guilty by a jury for the murder of his girlfriend Kandi Gerber as a co-conspirator to Robert Theodore Bosley, was sentenced to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.
Gerber’s family hoped for a harsher sentence for Wheeler.
“This never goes away. [Wheeler and Bosley] have the chance to appeal again and again,” Gerber’s sister said.
Bosley was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the harshest sentence available in Maryland.
Robert Schech acquitted of all charges in murder trial
A Hampstead man, Robert Schech Sr., was acquitted of all charges after he was accused of setting a fire in his home that killed his wife Donna Marie Schech.
He spent more than 500 days incarcerated from his arrest until his acquittal. The trial was conducted as a bench trial, meaning there was no jury and Judge Thomas Stansfield was the case’s sole fact-finder.
During sentencing, Stansfield said the case left “a strong suspicion that the defendant is guilty,” but there was not sufficient evidence to make that finding.
Schech’s children described the difficulty of knowing their father was innocent, and “For no one to believe you … but you know it so strongly that he was innocent the whole time.”
Trapanis sentenced to 30 years for child neglect
Paul and Melissa Trapani, a Westminster husband and wife, were sentenced to five years incarceration for each of six counts of neglect of a minor — a total of 30 years — by Judge Thomas Stansfield.
The children have been placed with families. When investigators seized them from their parents home in November 2014, they found that two of the six children lived in a room with a lock and wooden bars over the door, and that all had been neglected.
Ashley Davis pleaded guilty to fatal child abuse
A Westminster mother pleaded guilty to first degree child abuse that led to the death of her infant daughter.
According to a statement of facts read by the prosecution during the plea hearing, Ashley Davis called 911 on Jan. 4, 2016 to because her daughter Sophia Davis was vomiting, cross-eyed and tensing up. Doctors found head trauma had resulted in bleeding in the brain in the less than two-month-old infant.
Davis is awaiting sentencing scheduled for Jan. 29, 2019. Tyler Tennant pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 5 years with all but 323 days suspended, according to electronic court records.
Two charged with first-degree abuse of infant
A couple was charged with first-degree child abuse after an incident allegedly caused brain bleeding in a 6-month-old Westminster child.
According to charging documents, Investigators recorded that, while being interviewed, McAbee confessed to likely causing injury by striking the infant’s back out of frustration when the infant continued to cry after being burped. On other occasions, he had yanked on the straps of the infant’s car seat or pushed his face into his chest try to try to stop him from crying, according to the statement.
McAbee was charged in mid-August after the child was transported to the hospital. He was indicted on Sept. 13. On charges of first and second-degree child abuse.
The infant’s mother, Krista Dawn Johnson was indicted Oct. 11 on abuse and neglect charges.
McAbee is scheduled for a hearing Feb. 4.
Anthony Muniz found guilty and sentenced for animal cruelty in death of dog
Anthony Michael Muniz, of Reisterstown was found guilty of animal cruelty and abandonment charges in the death of a dog discovered tied to a cinder block in Liberty Reservoir.
Judge Fred Hecker sentenced Muniz to three years in the department of corrections.
Samuel Bellusci sentenced in negligent homicide with motor vehicle
Samuel Nicholas Bellusci, of Westminster, was found guilty and sentenced to three years, the maximum sentence for a charge of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
A blood test found that Bellusci had used THC, cocaine and opiates prior to driving. His vehicle crossed the double yellow line and crashed head on into a woman’s vehicle, according to charging documents.
Kathryn Cleary charged with vehicular homicide
An Owings Mills woman, Kathryn Margaret Cleary, was charged with homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and related charges and traffic citations after a crash on the Md. 30 bypass on Dec. 5, 2017 allegedly resulted in the death of Charles Duffy, of Hampstead, who suffered cardiac arrest days later.
Cleary was arrested on Oct. 11, 2018 and court scheduling information was not yet available as of Dec. 17.
William Charles Jr. charged with vehicular homicide
A Manchester man, William Charles Jr. was charged with homicide by motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol following a fatal crash near Taneytown in September that resulted in the death of Christopher Fleck.
Charles is scheduled for a Jan. 29, 2019 hearing and a jury trial beginning June 3, 2019 according to electronic court records as of Dec. 17, 2018.