Rape trial postponedGETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Awaiting a...


Rape trial postponed

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Awaiting a decision on whether a 34-year-old tree trimmer accused in the Taneytown slaying of a Gettysburg woman is competent to stand trial on an unrelated rape charge here, a county judge postponed his rape trial.

James Howard Van Metre, formerly of East Berlin, Pa., was indicted in December on charges of first- and second-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, manslaughter and battery in the death of Holly Haynes Blake.

State police began investigating him in connection with Blake's disappearance when ashes and suspected human bone fragments were found on a farm in the 4700 block of Baptist Road in Taneytown.

In the rape case here, Van Metre was charged Oct. 7 with burglary, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, three counts of rape, two counts of involuntary deviant sex and two counts of simple assault in a separate attack on a woman who lives near his parents' East Berlin home.

Van Metre's trial here was postponed until July 27. Van Metre is awaiting trial at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, where he was moved two months ago because he could not get along with inmates at the Adams County Detention Center.

After his rape trial is concluded, his first-degree murder trial in Carroll will be heard. If found guilty of both the rape and the murder, he would serve the Pennsylvania sentence first.

Bond denied in slaying


FREDERICK -- Bond was denied this week in Circuit Court here for a Union Bridge man facing first-degree murder and robbery charges in connection with the slaying of a Linganore, Frederick County, man.

Vernon Henry Bittinger, 26, has been held without bail at Frederick County Adult Detention Center since his voluntary return here from Charles Town, W.Va.

Police say Donald Gravley, 32, was shot in January with a .22-caliber rifle. His 7-year-old daughter was tied with string and her mouth was taped by the killer, who left her lying under her bedcovers in their trailer park home. The child's mother was at work. Gravley's body was found by a family friend, Maryland State Police said.

Police say Bittinger allegedly stole the victim's money and his truck, and the shooting followed an argument between the two friends.

Jefferson County Sheriff R. L. Buracker said Bittinger was arrested without incident in late January by authorities in Charles Town after his pickup truck was found parked at an inn where he was staying. A SWAT team assisted in the arrest. He fought extradition for several weeks, officials said.

In addition to having his bond revoked, Bittinger also was served with indictments handed down last week by a Frederick County grand jury charging him with the slaying.

Bittinger lives in the Frederick County portion of the Union Bridge area, in the 12700 block of New Windsor Road.

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