13-hour hostage drama ends


A 13-hour standoff in southern Carroll County ended yesterday when the female hostage escaped and the man accused of holding her at knifepoint surrendered.

Ralph Ash, 37, who lives in the Ashley Mobile Home Park in Woodbine where the incident occurred, was charged with rape, attempted murder, assault and battery, false imprisonment and other offenses, according to state police.

The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy, was taken to a hospital.

Police said the standoff apparently grew out of a domestic dispute. Mr. Ash had been served Tuesday with court papers ordering him to stay away from his wife, Linda Lee Ash, and twin 5-year-old sons, and to move out of the family mobile home.

His wife's application for the protective order said that he had threatened to kill her and the children.

Mike McKelvin, a state police spokesman, said the incident began when a man broke into a woman's trailer about 4 a.m. and put a knife to her throat, but he made no demands at that time.

He called the Westminster state police barracks at 7:47 a.m., according to police, and said he was holding the woman hostage at the trailer park, in the 5900 block of Woodbine Road.

Police said he indicated he wanted to see his wife and sons, who had moved to Pennsylvania. The wife came to the site about 11:20 a.m. and talked to her husband on the telephone. She was allowed to stand behind a police car where he could see her.

At 2:50 p.m., after police rejected a demand that the wife be exchanged for the hostage, Mrs. Ash was taken within six feet of the front door of the trailer, shielded by two members of the police Special Tactical Assault Team Element, who were wearing protective body gear.

The man, using the hostage as a shield, came about six inches out of the door, but pulled the woman back inside the trailer, slammed the door and shouted that he wasn't coming out.

Many of the residents of nearby mobile homes were evacuated when police cordoned off the area and surrounded the trailer. Police later said that the suspect told them he had a gun, but none was found after his surrender.

The hostage was sometimes allowed to answer the phone when police called, but was not allowed to give any information, answering only "yes" or "no." Officers said she had been cut on the arm, but the injury did not appear to be serious.

A co-worker of the victim said, "I went to the trailer park to pick [her] up about 9 a.m. and was blocked by state troopers from going into the park. They told me to call her on the telephone."

The co-worker said that when she called the victim's trailer, a man answered and said, "I'm holding her at knifepoint" and then allowed the hostage to speak briefly on the phone.

At 4:05 p.m., Mr. McKelvin said that police had not heard from the man for 45 minutes and were worried because he had said that "he was ready to end this."

Negotiators called the trailer by phone all day. About 4:50 p.m., when the man turned away to answer a call, the hostage rushed out the door. Officers, in camouflage uniforms with their faces painted to match, quickly grabbed her and took her to safety.

Mr. Ash surrendered about 5:30 p.m.

The victim was met by her mother, who had received a call from her daughter at 8 a.m. and had been waiting at the trailer park throughout the day with her family.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, who visited the hostage site during the standoff, told reporters that the suspect is "well-known to my office, the Maryland State Police and the child abuse unit of Carroll County. When apprehended he will be charged with kidnapping and other related charges."

On Tuesday night, Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. had ordered Mr. Ash to stay away from his wife. The estranged wife told the court that Mr. Ash had threatened to kill her with a knife and had threatened the couple's sons.

In June and July, her application for protection said, Mr. Ash placed "hot tongs on [the] right arm" of one of his sons. On July 4, he did it again, the application says.

Mr. Ash had begun working at the Shady Spring Kennel in Woodbine within the past several weeks, according to the documents.

The judge ordered Mr. Ash to vacate his trailer, and to stay away from Mrs. Ash and the two 5-year-olds until a full protective order hearing Tuesday.

Mr. Ash, Carroll Circuit Court records show, was to appear yesterday before a court master to determine whether he should pay additional child support to another ex-wife.

Records show that he was arrested last week for failing to appear at an earlier support hearing. A judge released him two days later on his recognizance.

According to court records, a county judge in 1985 found Mr. Ash not guilty by reason of insanity in 1983 burglary, rape and abuse cases. Earlier, according to court records and county sex abuse prosecutors, Mr. Ash was acquitted in another rape case.

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