Shooting suspect held since Nov. denied bail
Keith Sluder (Submitted photo, HANDOUT)

Family and friends of a New Windsor man accused of shooting his wife in the neck in November told a judge Monday that had they recognized Keith Sluder's erratic behavior as warning signs of a mental illness, they would have acted to get him help.

At the conclusion of Monday's hearing, Judge Fred S. Hecker ordered Sluder, 42, of the 3300 block of Hooper Road, continue being held without bail. Sluder is charged with attempted murder and related counts.


Circuit Court Chief Attorney Allan Culver said there were too many unknown factors to risk releasing Sluder.

Hecker said Sluder's behavior was entirely out of character and unprecedented, and that contributed to his decision not to grant bail.

Because Sluder has not been able to explain what happened and says he does not remember the incident or the days around the incident, Hecker said there was no way to predict if he would act out again.

Sluder's wife has since recovered from her injuries, but Culver said the bullet that hit her neck barely missed a carotid artery. The carotid arteries are major blood vessels to the brain.

"The court does not believe that there are any reasonable conditions that can assure the public's safety in this case," Hecker said.

Sluder's long-time friend Steven Tegeler saw Sluder in the days before Nov. 12 when he allegedly shot his wife in their home and said Sluder appeared scattered and "off."

"It was like he wasn't there with us," Tegeler said, describing how Sluder would not respond to questions logically and had trouble focusing on the conversation.

Jerry Brightwell, the partner of Sluder's aunt, said he knew Sluder since childhood and noticed he seemed more quiet and reserved in the days before the incident.

"He was very disturbed because he couldn't find a job [and] was worrying about providing for his family," he said.

Shirley Sluder, Keith Sluder's mother, said her son came to her Sykesville home the morning before the incident and she considered taking him to Carroll Hospital.

"He said, 'Mom, there's something wrong with me. I don't know what's happening,'" she said.

Michael Sluder, Keith Sluder's brother, said he was called to his mother's house that morning and his brother was "distraught, talking in circles."

Shirley Sluder said Keith had not been sleeping and the family decided he should get some rest rather than be taken to the hospital.

"We decided to wait, and I'll tell you, it was the biggest mistake of my life," she said.


The following morning, Keith Sluder appeared better after spending the night at his mother's house, and his wife came over and they eventually went home that afternoon, Shirley Sluder said.

By 11:30 p.m., deputies from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office had been sent to Sluder's home for a report of shots fired and a person injured, according to charging documents. Deputies found Sluder, who they said was uncooperative, and a handgun on the back porch.

While he was being held at the Carroll County Detention Center, medical staff requested an emergency petition be completed and Sluder was taken to Carroll Hospital, according to psychiatrist Hanita Chhabra. From there he was taken to a state mental health facility.

Chhabra said when she first met with Sluder prior to a competency hearing in December, she found him not aware of basic reality with tangential thoughts. By February, she said, Sluder was closer to a baseline psychiatric status and knew things like the date and the name of the president.

"He was much more consistent," she said. "He could stay on target."

When she met with Sluder prior to Monday's hearing, Chhabra said she found him to be about the same. She said he has been very emotional about the incident but still does not recall it happening.

"The reality that his life and his family's lives will never be the same is very saddening to him," she said, adding that he uses words like "tragic" to describe the situation.

Chhabra said the behaviors Sluder's family testified about were indicators of an "abrupt onset of mental illness," which became clear in hindsight.

While he is incarcerated, Sluder is not receiving any mental health treatment, according to defense attorney Larry Greenberg.

If released, Greenberg assured Hecker that Sluder would stay with his mother — a protective order is in place prohibiting him from contacting his wife and children — and the family would know what to look for if Sluder's mental health deteriorated.

"These people are now put on notice of the signs," he said.

Hecker said he did not doubt the sincerity of Sluder's family, but said he was not confident Sluder would not behave violently without warning again.

No further court dates have been scheduled as of Monday evening, according to electronic court files.