The mother of a young woman who was raped and killed in Denver intends to sue Maryland for at least $102 million, charging that state officials released the man accused of killing her to a Colorado drug rehabilitation program without notifying authorities there.
Patricia Tuthill of Mary Esther, Fla., filed a claim against the state in February, putting the state on notice that she would sue it for "gross negligence" in its supervision of convicted armed robber and burglar Donta Paige.
Though Gov. Parris N. Glendening apologized to Colorado's governor last year for the state's actions in the case, Maryland officials denied the claim in March.
Maryland officials said yesterday that they are expecting such a lawsuit. "We think we have a meritorious defense to this claim, which doesn't deny the tragedy of the situation," said Stuart Nathan, assistant attorney general in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Paige, who was serving a 20-year sentence, was released from a state prison in Hagerstown by a Prince George's County judge so that he could enter a drug treatment program in Denver in 1998.
Colorado authorities say he killed Peyton Tuthill, 24, in February 1999, the day after he was kicked out of the program and told to leave the state.
The case received intense publicity in Colorado, where it led to passage of a state law requiring such programs to notify local authorities before accepting out-of-state offenders. The case also prompted Glendening to pledge to notify other states before an offender is sent outside Maryland.
Patricia Tuthill's attorney, Peter Grenier of Washington, said he did not know whether the case would be tried in Colorado or Maryland, but he noted that it might be advantageous to sue where the crime occurred.
Prince George's Circuit Judge Joseph S. Casula decided in October 1998 to suspend Paige's sentence for a 1996 armed robbery and other offenses on the condition that he complete a program run by the Stout Street Foundation in Denver.
Maryland officials have conceded that state corrections authorities did not notify law enforcement agencies in Colorado of the release, as is required by an interstate compact on parolees and probationers.
Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals said last year that the case was a "failure" on Maryland's part but that correctional officials were responsible for making the notification. Correctional officials said Casula decided to release Paige without notifying the parole and probation agency.
Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the public safety department, said the case exposed a gap in the system that Glendening and Bell, who heads the state's highest court, have rectified.
According to the claim filed by Grenier on behalf of Patricia Tuthill, Paige reported to the Stout Street program shortly after his release but habitually violated the program's rules.
Grenier said Paige, 24, was kicked out of the program Feb. 23, 1999. The next day, Peyton Tuthill was raped and stabbed to death while her home was being burglarized.
Colorado prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Paige has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.