As Frederick authorities investigate a Mount Airy man’s death at The Great Frederick Fair last week, the victim’s outraged family and the county sheriff are speaking out.
The man’s death, caused by an assault at the fair, has left a gaping hole in his family’s life, the victim’s sister said Tuesday.
John Marvin Weed, 59, was found lying unconscious on the ground near the midway area of the fairgrounds just after 5:36 p.m. Friday, according to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. He was flown to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and died at about 4 p.m. Saturday, the sheriff’s office said.
“Our lives have been changed forever [due] to the unprovoked vicious attack these individuals inflicted on my brother John Weed. He was my rock,” said Weed’s sister, Lori Hawkins, in a statement on behalf of the family Tuesday morning.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said during a news conference Monday that two juveniles who face charges, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, will be held in detention in Montgomery County until their next court date on Oct. 22. The younger teen faces charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment, and the older teen faces one charge of second-degree assault.
Because the teens — who are brothers, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office — are charged as juveniles their names and records are hidden.
The teens are being held at a juvenile facility in Montgomery County because of “logistics considerations,” said Will Cockey, a spokesman for Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office. But the case, he said, will be prosecuted in Frederick County.
Smith said during the conference there is no reason to believe the teens intended to kill the victim.
To care for her aging parents, Hawkins said, she and Weed moved with them, as well as her daughter and two young grandchildren, to Frederick County one year ago.
“John immediately took on so many projects and all the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for us. He gave so much love to his young niece and nephew, four-wheeler rides, playing in the pool, reading bedtime stories and so much more. After school each day, his 5-year-old nephew would come in the door and ask where Uncle Jay was. He would run downstairs to see what project he could help him with,” Hawkins wrote, using a nickname for her brother.
“Jay would always have a project for him, be it painting, drywall work, building a fire pit or making furniture. He was Jay’s little helper,” Hawkins continued.
She wrote that her brother was the “happiest” she’d ever seen him — until Friday.
“We just wanted to spend time together as a family at the fair, but due to this horrible act of unprovoked violence my brother is now dead,” Hawkins wrote. “There is no excuse for what these individuals have done.”
She urged witnesses to contact the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
Mount Airy resident Diana Rogers told the Times in an email that a candlelight vigil will be held in remembrance of Weed at Watkins Park, at 7255 Ridge Road, on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Weed’s niece, Jessica, created a GoFundMe page called “Justice for John” to help cover the expenses of legal, medical and funeral costs. As of 12:40 p.m., they’d raised over $8,600 toward the $20,000 goal.
A GoFundMe page called “Save our Sons,” which appeared to have been created by the teens’ father, was taken down by Wednesday afternoon. Its goal had been listed as “Raising funds for a retainer fee and subsequent legal defense.”
An attorney reportedly representing the teens could not be reached for comment.
Frederick sheriff believes assault was ‘hate crime’
Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said in an interview Tuesday that he’s convinced Weed was the victim of a “hate crime," though he noted it might not match the legal definition of a hate crime. The teens are black and Weed was white.
Jenkins was at the fair when the assault occurred. He said he was about 100 yards away when people came up to him, saying a man was on the ground and being spit on.
“I just took off running down the midway,” Jenkins said. “I knew he was severely injured ... There was blood.”
Still, Jenkins said he did not expect the man to die.
Investigators interviewed witnesses and learned that the incident started with a group of young men asking Weed for a dollar, but he refused, Jenkins said. The sheriff also watched a video of the assault, he said.
“I would call that an unprovoked attack," Jenkins said.
“What those young men did to this man was just vile. It was desecrating him as a person, demeaning to him, and demeaning to his family," he said. “I view that as real hatred, regardless of race, ethnicity, whatever.”
Under Maryland law, hate crimes are defined as misdemeanors such as assault or vandalism that were committed based on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin or homelessness.
“Logic says they didn’t attack this man for a single dollar. There was some other motivation. What was that motivation? And only they can answer that," Jenkins said. “I know that what I’ve said is very controversial, but I believe something else motivated this."
Jenkins said he did not know if Weed said anything to the group of young men before the altercation, and noted Weed and the defendants did not know one another.
At Monday’s news conference, Smith said that after the teens asked Weed for a dollar, “there was some sort of dialogue that ensued after that that made it a negative situation.”
The 16-year-old punched Weed in the back of the head, Smith said, then several minutes later the 15-year-old “comes flying through, lands a deadly blow to the victim.”
Smith described the incident as a homicide. He also called it unprovoked.
“Right now, what we know is it was over a dollar bill," Smith said. "It wasn’t over race, but again, that’s a question we have as well, so we’re going to pursue that if the facts warrant a charge of a hate crime, we’ll charge it, if they don’t then we’re not going to try to chase something that doesn’t exist.”
The teens do not have an extensive criminal history, Smith said.
The The Great Frederick Fair has been running for 157 years, and Jenkins said such acts of violence are highly unusual. Jenkins and Smith both said nothing like this has happened at the fair.
The Sheriff’s Office has provided law enforcement resources to the fair for the past 10 or 11 years, Jenkins said. The fair’s management hires the Deanovich & Associates Inc. security firm to cover the weeklong event, Jenkins said, and sheriff’s deputies are there in case a “problem goes beyond security."
A Facebook message sent to The Great Frederick Fair page seeking requesting comment was not immediately returned.
The sheriff’s office is still interviewing possible witnesses and encouraging people to come forward, Jenkins said.