Father charged in children's shooting; Son dead, daughter critical; man blamed a carjacker on U.S. 50


CAMBRIDGE -- At first, the young father told police that the carjacking horror began on the bridge that spans the Choptank River.

But after 13 hours of police interrogation, according to charging documents, Richard Wayne Spicknall II confessed that he had shot his 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter while they were strapped in safety seats in their grandmother's automobile.

The 27-year-old Laurel man was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his son, Richard III, and the attempted murder of his daughter, Destiny Array Spicknall.

Spicknall, who was being held without bail last night in the Talbot County Detention Center in Easton, initially told police that he had picked up a hitchhiker on the Frederick C. Malkus Jr. Bridge early yesterday who forced him from the car at gunpoint, threw him off the bridge into the Choptank and sped away with his children.

Charging documents presented last night at Spicknall's initial hearing before District Court Commissioner Suzanne Shortall in Easton say that Spicknall confessed to shooting the children with a 9 mm handgun. The suspect was ordered held pending a bail review hearing scheduled for 8: 45 a.m. today.

Detectives said both children were shot in the chest between 11 p.m. Wednesday and 2: 30 a.m. yesterday while strapped in safety seats in a 1998 Jeep Wrangler owned by Spicknall's mother. The locked sport utility vehicle, with the children in it, was found about 8 a.m. yesterday by roofers arriving to work on a waterfront house under construction about a half-mile from the Malkus bridge.

Police recovered two slugs from the Wrangler.

The boy was declared dead early yesterday at Dorchester General Hospital in Cambridge. His sister -- conscious, but with breathing difficulties -- was flown to the pediatric unit at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Destiny was listed in critical condition early this morning at Shock Trauma, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Spicknall called police at 2: 51 a.m. yesterday from a pay phone at the fishing pier near the north end of the Malkus bridge, saying he had spent several hours struggling in the swift currents of the Choptank after being thrown from the bridge. Several fishermen on the Choptank fishing pier told police they saw a man come out of the water early yesterday and make his way to the phone.

During questioning, Spicknall told police he picked up his children Wednesday night and headed east on U.S. 50 for an Ocean City vacation with family members at the Capri hotel and condominiums at the north end of the resort. While crossing into Cambridge, he said, he stopped for a hitchhiker and was overpowered.

Police hammered away at a three-hour gap in Spicknall's story between the time the suspect said the carjacking occurred and when he was found dripping wet at the pay phone.

Maj. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said: "We believe the crime occurred in Talbot County, near the bridge."

Spicknall was seen in the driveway of his parents' Glen Burnie home on Wednesday evening. Neighbors watched him move the children's two car seats and jumper cables from his car to his mother's Jeep.

"This is just awful," said neighbor Laura Leigh, 29. "My children used to play with his children."

Last week, police said, Spicknall bought a 9 mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun and a mix of ammunition from A-1 Pawn No. 1, in the 4900 block Edgewood Road in College Park. The charging document says Spicknall told police that he used a 9 mm to shoot his children.

Spicknall was handcuffed and dressed in a green jumpsuit yesterday afternoon before being taken to the bridge in a police van around 4 p.m. Police closed the southbound lane as 45 state police cadets combed the bridge for evidence.

Nearly 60 state troopers and Natural Resources Police also examined the area near the bridge for clues all day yesterday.

Spicknall and his wife, the former Lisa Fields, separated last December after three years of marriage.

In court records filed in Howard County, Mrs. Spicknall alleged that her husband "engaged in excessively vicious conduct endangering her safety." In the first count of a petition for divorce, she alleged "cruelty of treatment."

Three weeks before filing for divorce in December 1998, Mrs. Spicknall asked the court for a protective order against her husband, saying that he "shoved and threatened her" on Nov. 22, 1998.

The petition for a restraining order quotes her as saying: "After arguing in our home he told me he did not want to see what would happen if I did not leave. He then shoved me into the wall. He continued to scream at me and tell me he would not control himself if I did not leave."

She was granted the protective order on Dec. 2. Saying that he and Destiny "have a great relationship," Spicknall filed for custody of the girl but not his son.

At the time of yesterday's shooting, both children remained in Mrs. Spicknall's custody. A Howard County judge's order issued July 19 says that Spicknall could be with his children from 8 p.m. Sundays through 8 a.m. Wednesdays.

Both parents were told to participate in counseling. A date for the Spicknalls' divorce hearing has not been set.

Yesterday, state troopers cordoned off the two-story home in Glen Burnie where Spicknall's parents live. Neighbors on the quiet street sat outside on lawn chairs watching a half-dozen troopers guard the property. They planned to execute a search warrant there last night.

A half-dozen state troopers were also parked in front of Spicknall's townhouse in Laurel yesterday afternoon.

Until early last month, Spicknall had worked for eight months as a manager of the "arena floor" at the ESPN Zone theme restaurant and bar in the Inner Harbor. However, early yesterday, state police visited several Disney retail stores asking if Spicknall had been employed there. ESPN Zone is owned by Disney.

According to court documents, Spicknall filed for personal bankruptcy in May. Court records listed $1,345 in assets and $42,207.08 in liabilities, mainly credit card debts and medical bills.

His debts included 14 credit card accounts, the largest with a balance of $6,153.68, and a $16,608 balance on a timeshare account on a residence in Harrisonburg, Va.

Sun staff writers Tim Craig and Del Quentin Wilber and researchers Andrea Wilson and Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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