Police arrest son in double killing, say family dispute may be involved; Carroll judge orders psychological evaluation


A family confrontation over an adult son's recent sexual behavior might have triggered last week's double homicide in Frizzellburg, authorities speculated in charging documents filed yesterday.

Gary Douglas Starnes, 48, was arrested by state police late Wednesday on double murder charges in the deaths of his mother, Barbara Lorraine Ries, 67, and stepfather, Joseph Sidney Garrity, 68.

At yesterday's bail review hearing in Carroll County District Court, Judge Marc G. Rasinsky ordered a psychological evaluation of Starnes, who was taken after the hearing to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, the state's secure facility for those in the criminal justice system who may have mental health problems.

State police arrested Starnes at Carroll County General Hospital, where he had been a patient in the psychiatric unit since Dec. 29 -- the evening the couple's bodies were found in separate bathrooms at their home in the 1400 block of Warehime Road.

Starnes had periodically lived with the couple, according to neighbors and the police. The couple was last known to be alive about noon Dec. 28.

Their bodies were discovered late Dec. 29, after police received at least two calls asking officers to check on the couple's welfare, according to the statement of charges by a trooper from the Special Investigation Support Unit based in Columbia.

Police said interviews with relatives indicated "a confrontation of sorts between [Ries] and Starnes," reportedly because Starnes had "inappropriately touched a family member (in a suggestively sexual way) during the Christmas holidays."

At yesterday's hearing, District Public Defender Carol Hanson said, "I am not asking for a competency evaluation. I am asking that he be held at Clifton T. Perkins." Rasinsky agreed.

Starnes was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of wearing or carrying a dangerous and deadly weapon with the intent to injure Garrity and Ries, who used her own last name.

Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore said no decision has been made on whether the state would seek the death penalty in the case, which could be eligible for capital punishment because two people were killed.

Gilmore would not say whether a weapon had been recovered, but The Sun has learned that state police recovered an odd-shaped instrument that they believe was used to kill Garrity and Ries.

The state medical examiner's office ruled last week that Garrity and Ries had died by homicide from blunt-force trauma to their heads and upper torsos.

Police described the couple's injuries as being caused by an "ax, hatchet, hammer or similar weapon."

Gilmore said State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes likely would send the case to the grand jury, either next month or in a special grand jury session.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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