Plea expected in nursing home death


Michael Paul Griffith, accused of suffocating a 94-year-old nursing home patient in 1993, is expected to enter a plea agreement today, according to courthouse sources.

Details of the agreement -- reached last week during meetings with Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. -- were not available, but sources said that Mr. Griffith's jury trial on first-degree murder charges that was to have begun today has been canceled.

Prosecutors charged Mr. Griffith, 32, of Westminster with first- and second-degree murder in June in the December 1993 death of Carrie Marie Ecker.

Mrs. Ecker, described as ill, unable to walk and in excruciating pain, was buried in a small church cemetery days after her death, which was attributed at the time to natural causes.

In February, Mr. Griffith -- an employee at Westminster Nursing and Convalescent Center -- walked into the Westminster state police barracks saying he needed to talk to someone about helping a nursing patient die.

According to Circuit Court records, Mr. Griffith told police that he "used a bed pillow to suffocate . . . Carrie Marie Ecker."

Mrs. Ecker's body was exhumed after Mr. Griffith's statement, and the state medical examiner's office ruled her death a homicide. Mr. Griffith was arrested in June and has been held at the Carroll County Detention Center without bail since then.

Judge Burns declined to comment, and Howard County Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha referred all questions about the case to the judge. Mr. Griffith's attorney, Howard County Assistant Public Defender Richard Bernhardt, could not be reached for comment last week.

Mr. Griffith had been employed as a nursing assistant at the convalescent center for several months at the time of Mrs. Ecker's death, records show.

About an hour after talking to state police Feb. 25 and being released, Mr. Griffith was pulled over as he drove along Center Street. Court documents said he told the Westminster officer who stopped him that he had just consumed "12 beers." He was arrested and charged with drunken driving; that charge was to be disposed of today as well.

Little is known about Mr. Griffith, except that he has a record of nonviolent offenses dating to 1987. Judge Burns convicted him of stealing $79 in 1988 and of stealing $20 in a 1987 burglary. He also was convicted of a single misdemeanor drug possession charge in 1990.

Court records show that Mr. Griffith has sought psychiatric treatment in jail, and his attorneys have on at least one occasion asked that he be allowed to post bail "so that he may better prepare for his defense." The request was rejected.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad