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Waine held without bond in retrial for Harford double murder

Peter Sutro Waine, convicted in 1976 of murdering two people, was denied bail Wednesday as he waits for a new trial.
Peter Sutro Waine, convicted in 1976 of murdering two people, was denied bail Wednesday as he waits for a new trial. (Courtesy of Todd Holden, Homestead Publishing)

Peter Sutro Waine, convicted of murdering a Harford County couple nearly 40 years ago, will remain incarcerated while he waits for his new trial for the murders.

"Given the nature of these allegations, the court is going to continue to have Mr. Waine held without bond," Harford County Circuit Court Judge Angela M. Eaves said during a bail review hearing Wednesday morning.

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Waine, who is 72, was sentenced to two life terms in prison, as well as 14 years for theft after he was convicted of killing Lyle Ager, 35, and Marilyn Smith, 24, in their home in Abingdon in early 1975 and then stealing Ms. Smith's car during his escape.

Police caught up with Waine in Arizona when he was detained on a warrant not related to the Harford County murders. He was still driving Ms. Smith's car, and he had Mr. Ager's driver's license, along with his bank book and bank card.

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Investigators found the victim's bludgeoned bodies in their bedroom in April 1975, a month after Waine left the couple's house – Waine said Mr. Ager allowed him to take the vehicle and the bank documents to Arizona to conduct a business deal on Mr. Ager's behalf.

Waine, who grew up in Boston, was transferred from the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland to the Harford County Detention Center north of Bel Air for Wednesday's bail review hearing.

Harford Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Sr. granted Waine a new trial in 2012; Waine has been seeking post-conviction relief since 1997, and Plitt granted it in the form of a new trial under the Maryland Court of Appeals' so-called Unger ruling.

That ruling allowed Merle Unger of Western Maryland, who was convicted of killing a police officer, to get a new trial after a successful argument that the jury did not receive proper instructions.

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As a result of the Unger case, an estimated 200 people across Maryland who were convicted of crimes during the 1960s and '70s have appealed their cases, including Waine.

He appeared via video link from the county jail Wednesday; he had been scheduled to appear in court in person, but Harford State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly, who is prosecuting Waine, said the defendant had a health issue that was keeping him in the jail.

The proceedings were moved from Eaves' courtroom on the third floor of the Harford County Courthouse to a second-floor courtroom equipped with a video monitor linked to the jail.

Waine was wearing a black-and-white striped jail uniform and thick glasses. His hair and beard, which were dark when he was tried in 1976, have gone white.

The defendant did not say anything during the hearing, but he watched the proceedings intently.

His lawyer, Howard L. Cardin of Baltimore, argued that Waine has been a model inmate and while in prison performed multiple community service activities, such as reading to the blind.

Cardin said Waine has "repaid his debt, assuming there is a debt to be paid."

Cardin also noted Waine has health issues such as diabetes, and he uses a wheelchair. The attorney said his client would need to remain close to medical treatment facilities if he were released, meaning he is a low flight risk.

"He is a not a danger, as far as fleeing is concerned," Cardin said.

The attorney also noted that "the state's case is extremely weak."

Investigators found little forensic evidence tying Waine to the murders, and a murder weapon was not discovered. The state is also facing the challenge of nearly 40 years passing and witnesses who have moved or died.

Cassilly is undeterred, however. He noted the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by the Maryland Attorney General's Office last week seeking a review of the case.

"The courts in the state are all over the place with regard to their ruling [in Unger cases]," he told Eaves.

He said during the hearing he has been able to find some witnesses, as well as additional evidence from the Maryland State Police, which investigated the crime, although Cassilly did not specify in court what that evidence is.

"I believe from reading the transcript that the defendant is a psychopath," Cassilly told the judge. "He's expressed no remorse."

The prosecutor also stressed Waine's prior record of theft and conning people out of money, acts to which Waine admitted.

"He made his living stealing from people, conning people," Cassilly said.

Cardin objected to Cassilly's characterization of his client.

"I do not believe that there is any evidence that he's a psychopath," Cardin said.

Two people were with Cassilly in the courtroom, whom he later identified as Ms. Smith's sister and the sister's husband.

The couple declined to comment, but they thanked Cassilly for his efforts, and the husband told Cassilly he has their vote in his bid for re-election this year.

Cristie Kahler of the Harford County Sheriff's Office said via email that Waine will remain in the county jail until his new trial ends.

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