A Marriottsville man has been charged with killing his wife by kicking a ladder on which she was standing and causing her to fall, then leaving her to die of her head injuries.
John Carroll Calhoun, 51, of the 2500 block of Thompson Drive, turned himself in to police yesterday.
He was charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment and was released on personal recognizance, said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a spokesman for the Howard County police.
Investigators say they began to suspect foul play in the death of Gladys Ester Calhoun, 45, after her husband gave conflicting accounts of the circumstances and a number of people told police the couple had been experiencing marital problems.
Mrs. Calhoun had told several friends that she feared her husband might kill her, according to charging documents police filed in Howard County District Court.
Officers who arrived at the couple's house shortly before midnight May 13 said they found the woman lying at the foot of a ladder, dead from massive skull fractures and other injuries. She apparently hit her head on a nearby stack of steel tubular scaffolding when she fell.
Police thought it unusual that the ladder apparently remained upright despite the fall, the court documents say.
When officers questioned Mr. Calhoun, he told them his wife had been cleaning roof gutters when he left the house that afternoon. When they questioned him again a week later, he gave them a different account, they said.
When asked about the conflicting statements on a third occasion, Mr. Calhoun confessed that he had argued with his wife and kicked the right foot of the ladder, causing it to twist and make her fall, the court documents say.
Police said Mr. Calhoun left his wife for dead, going about his business after the incident and inviting relatives to his house that night so they would find her body.
Sergeant Gardner said Mrs. Calhoun might be alive if she had received immediate treatment.
"It was not believed she died instantly. The fact he failed to summon emergency help and call police is why we have the charges," he said.
Police said the couple had discussed divorce and had squabbled about dividing their assets. "They [the detectives] had some concerns at the start, especially after learning about their marital problems," Sergeant Gardner said.
The Calhouns had two children, ages 9 and 11, and lived for nearly 15 years next door to former County Executive William E. Eakle and his wife, Agnes, in a secluded wooded area of western Howard County. Homes in the area sit on large lots and many are separated by clusters of trees.
"I just don't expect these things to happen in our neighborhood," Mr. Eakle said. "It's shocking."
Neighbors said Gladys Calhoun, a native of Puerto Rico who loved to sew and work on her garden, was a good mother and a cheerful person. Some of the neighbors turned to tears when they heard how she died; others said that they had suspected foul play.
"She had a sweet, soft, engaging manner about her -- a thoroughly nice person," said Shirley Evans, a neighbor, who found out about Mrs. Calhoun's death about a week ago, when Mr. Calhoun came to her house to give her some home repair material. "When you live far apart from your neighbors, you don't talk much," she said.
Neighbors said they never had problems with Mr. Calhoun, who they said liked to fly planes and pursue other exciting pastimes.