An Ellicott City man pleaded guilty Friday to stabbing to death prominent businessman and blogger Dennis Lane, whose daughter asked for the killing because she was "sick" of her father, according to prosecutors.
Jason A. Bulmer, 20, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder without making a statement to the court, then listened as prosecutors described a bloody struggle between the two men outside a bedroom in Lane's Ellicott City home as his 14-year-old daughter, Morgan Lane Arnold, stood nearby crying.
Prosecutors plan to seek a sentence of life with the possibility of parole for Bulmer, who told police he killed Lane to please Arnold. Sentencing is scheduled for May 29 — about one year after Lane's death.
Prosecutors disclosed new details in court of the events that shocked the community.
Lane awoke about 4 a.m. when he heard Bulmer and Arnold talking and walked down the hall toward his daughter's room, where Bulmer told police he attacked him. Lane, who was 58, suffered five stab and 10 cutting wounds,
Prosecutors said after being attacked, Lane was able to restrain Bulmer, allowing Lane's fiancee, Denise Geiger, to take a kitchen knife away from him. Geiger also was a target in the attack planned by Bulmer and Arnold, prosecutors said, but was not hurt.
Geiger dropped the knife over an upstairs banister to the steps below, and called police after asking Arnold several times to call 911. The girl said more than once, "I can't," according to Assistant State's Attorney Danielle M. Duclaux.
Lane was found dead in his bedroom at Winding Ross Way, the prosecutor said.
Bulmer also had been charged with two conspiracy counts, but the lesser charges will be dropped in the plea agreement.
His lawyer, public defender Janette E. DeBoissiere, told Howard County Circuit Judge Timothy J. McCrone that she plans to ask that her client be sentenced according to state guidelines, which call for 20 to 30 years in prison. She also plans to request that the judge recommend Bulmer for the Patuxent Institution.
Patuxent — which can choose to accept inmates or not — is a maximum-security prison in Jessup that provides psychological treatment for inmates who are expected to eventually be released, said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
DeBoissiere told the court Bulmer is being treated with an antidepressant and one other medication, and that he has a learning disability. At the time of the killing, he was 19 and a sophomore at Mount Hebron High School, where Arnold also was a student.
Arnold is at Spring Grove Hospital Center, a state mental institution in Catonsville, awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder and two counts each of conspiracy and solicitation of murder. She has been charged as an adult, but her lawyer has asked that the case be moved to the juvenile system. A hearing on the matter is pending.
Geiger was in the courtroom Friday morning but declined comment after the proceeding.
After the 45-minute plea hearing, DeBoissiere said Bulmer's family would have no comment "about the terrible crimes Jason's committed, since nothing they can say can repair the harm done."
Duclaux declined comment after the hearing other than to say Bulmer would not be called as a witness if Arnold's case comes to trial.
Arnold's lawyer, Joseph Murtha, said Bulmer's plea would have no bearing on the girl's case. Bulmer was prosecuted as an adult and "no defenses were offered as to his mental health," Murtha noted. He expects Arnold's mental health will be a factor if the case is tried in adult court.
"I also believe Morgan has substantial mental health impairment that will play into the ultimate outcome of her case," Murtha said.
According to court records and interviews, Arnold struggled in social situations and had been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum condition.
The girl divided her time between living with Lane and with her mother, Cindi Arnold, who lives in Catonsville. Lane and Cindi Arnold were never married.
Lane's killing sent a shock wave through Howard County, where he was a familiar face through his work in commercial real estate, his column in The Business Monthly, his popular "Tale of Two Cities" blog and a podcast called "And Then There's That," which he recorded at a table set up at The Mall in Columbia.
Friends and business associates described him as a gregarious man with a big laugh who enjoyed having a drink at Clyde's of Columbia, loved his community and was devoted to his daughter.
The girl had told Bulmer that "she wanted her father dead because she was angry with him," Duclaux told the court.
The prosecutor said Arnold and Bulmer began their relationship on Skype in November 2012, and as early as March began a series of exchanges about killing Lane. In March, Arnold wrote, "If your gonna kill him, make it look like a natural death," Duclaux said.
The next month, Duclaux said, Arnold wrote that she had a dream that her father had died, and later that day wrote, "Kill my dad instead" and "I need a knife to slice my dad's head off."
The two teenagers talked about hiding the bodies in the trunk of Lane's car and about running off to California, according to Duclaux.
About 1 a.m. on the day of the killing, Bulmer left his apartment in Ellicott City on foot carrying a kitchen knife. He had sent Arnold a picture of the knife the day before. He had never been to Lane's home, but Arnold had sent him a layout and sent a message that the basement sliding door was unlocked, prosecutors said.
He told detectives "he committed the murder to make his girlfriend happy," according to court documents.