Middle River nurse held in slaying of Baltimore woman


A 31-year-old private nurse who had been hired to care for a Mount Washington woman suffering from multiple sclerosis and a broken ankle has been charged with killing her and setting fire to her house last month, Baltimore police said yesterday.

Patricia Ann Harris was arrested Tuesday night at her home in the 2100 block of Graythorn Road in Middle River and charged with first-degree murder, robbery, arson and a deadly weapon violation, said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman.

She was being held last night without bond, police said.

The 64-year-old victim, Jean Ashburn, was found dead just before 9 p.m. Jan. 8 on a living room sofa after firefighters extinguished a fire that had engulfed her single-story house in the 5700 block of Rockspring Road.

She had suffered burns over her entire body.

Arson investigators said the fire had been intentionally set in several locations of the house using some type of flammable liquid. An empty 1-gallon container was found on the premises.

Mr. Hill said an autopsy revealed that the woman had been killed with a blow to the head prior to the setting of the fire.

He said that a bank card, several silver dollars and some jewelry had been stolen from the house.

Ms. Harris, who had relieved another nurse earlier that afternoon, could not be located after the fire, police said.

No charges were filed against her when she was found and questioned. However, the investigation continued until Tuesday night when she was arrested and the police searched her house.

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