Kidnapping suspect accused of threatening to shoot neighbor Woman tried, failed to avoid abduction


The man accused of kidnapping a 21-year-old Columbia woman threatened to shoot one of her neighbors as she tried unsuccessfully to elude him Friday, according to federal and Howard County court documents.

John Robert Righter allegedly approached Stephanie Musick at 8: 45 a.m. Friday, as she left her house in Columbia's River Hill community to go to work. After a brief argument, Musick walked to the home of a neighbor to ask him for help, saying she was feeling sick and asking if she could come into his house.

Righter then pulled a gun and said to Musick, "If you don't go with me, I'm going to shoot this guy," according to the documents filed by federal and Howard authorities.

These disclosures came yesterday as authorities were preparing for an extradition hearing in Ohio today to determine when Righter might be returned to Maryland to face kidnapping and other charges.

Righter, 22, allegedly handcuffed Musick and drove her to Ohio on Friday after a confrontation outside her River Hill home. She was found unharmed Saturday morning in the Dayton suburb of Englewood.

Some details about Righter are emerging.

In his senior year at Columbia's Wilde Lake High, where he graduated in 1993, Righter was accused of harassing a female student, according to Wilde Lake guidance counselor Sam Nissen. He said the girl's parents called the school to complain. Righter was not disciplined, Nissen said.

Righter has been living with his mother, Carol, and older brother, Brian, a Baltimore police officer, in an apartment in Wilde Lake.

Another counselor, Nora Scanlan, said yesterday that in high school Righter "was a good kid, he was a quiet kid, he was a loner."

Righter had made no public statements as of yesterday. He faces federal kidnapping charges in Baltimore and state charges in Howard County: two counts of kidnapping, two counts each of first- and second-degree assault, use of a handgun in the act of a violent crime, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon.

Musick had complained to police Sept. 5 that Righter, a former co-worker at Sears in The Mall in Columbia, was harassing her. Police said they quickly warned him not to harass her and said he agreed not to do so.

Stephanie Musick's mother, Diana Musick, said yesterday she was pleased with the job that Howard County police did, both in reacting to the initial report of harassment and in investigating her daughter's kidnapping. She said she was misquoted in yesterday's editions of The Sun in regard to the job police did.

Diana Musick said that her only problem was with Maryland's anti-stalking statute -- that it did not give the police enough power to thwart potential stalkers.

Howard County police yesterday discussed the line between protecting individuals who are harassed with unwanted, but nonthreatening, attention and those who are maliciously stalked.

Law is clear

The law for both offenses, says Howard County police spokesman Sgt. Steven Keller, is very clear.

Musick's report to police Sept. 5 complained that Righter had been following her on the campus of Western Maryland College in Westminster, where Musick is a senior majoring in social work.

Righter had also sent Musick numerous electronic-mail notes and letters, thanking her for being civil and friendly when they worked together at Sears and for helping him get through a tough, lonely period at work, police said.

A Sears manager later told Howard County police that Righter had a "crush" on Musick, although the two never dated. Righter left his job on Sears' loading dock last month.

Musick told police that she became concerned when she came out of her college dorm one morning to find a chocolate chip

cookie and a note from Righter on her car.

At the time she filed her report, Keller said Musick characterized Righter's actions as more "annoying than threatening. At this point, she was not really in fear of him. She just wanted him to stop following her around."

The same day Musick filed her report, a Howard police officer contacted Righter at his house in the 5000 block of Green Mountain Circle to warn him that he could be charged if he continued to harass Musick. Righter agreed to leave Musick alone, police say.

Keller said the Howard police officer who contacted Righter "did everything the law allowed him to do."

If Righter had made contact with Musick after being warned to stay away, police could have arrested and charged him with misdemeanor harassment.

Police said they knew no more of the matter until Friday, when neighbors called 911 after witnessing Musick being led into a sport utility vehicle.

Howard County police launched a search and were present at the Musick house when, at 5: 45 p.m. Friday, they said Musick called her mother to say that she was in eastern Ohio.

Explaining his agency's role yesterday, Howard County Police Chief James N. Robey said officers alerted every police jurisdiction within 100 miles of the location where the call was made.

The break in the case came at 10: 30 p.m. when NationsBank officials called police to say that someone had tried to use Righter's automated teller machine card in Huber Heights, but entered the wrong numbers into the machine.

Keller said police officers in Englewood, a Dayton suburb with about 11,000 residents, found Righter's red 1989 Dodge Raider about four hours later by "doing basic police work."

At 4: 25 a.m., Musick and Righter were found in the sports utility vehicle.

Michael J. Dickey, police chief in Englewood, said yesterday that officers found Musick "very tired and very scared" in the passenger seat. She was handcuffed to the seat belt, which was also partially tied around her to prevent her from escaping, Dickey said.

"He had her intertwined in the seat belt. They had to cut her out of it," Dickey said. "When she was freed, her first concern was to call her mother."

Musick told WJZ-TV that if the police hadn't apprehended Righter, he probably would have taken her even farther from home.

"We would've been in Indiana the very next day had I not been found," Musick said in the television interview.

Righter was cooperative with officers who made the arrest, Dickey said. They found a 9-mm Glock pistol and knife in the car, Dickey said.

Howard County police said Righter bought a 9-mm handgun and handcuffs at On Target Inc., a gun shop in Severn. A shop manager yesterday declined an interview request. An empty gun box was found in Righter's Columbia home, authorities said.

At Righter's mother's apartment in Columbia yesterday, two neighbors said Righter was nice, helpful and shy.

The neighbor said that when an elderly man in the building became ill recently, his wife called Righter for help. Righter carried the man to his car, the neighbors said.

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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