The man suspected of keeping a cache of weapons in an Ellicott City home has been an Army Reserve captain and a longtime Republican Party foot soldier who made two unsuccessful campaigns for Howard County sheriff.
Richmond C. Laney, 43, was being held in the Howard County Detention Center last night on $250,000 bail, charged with one count of possession of destructive devices and one count of reckless endangerment. A bail review hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.
Friday afternoon, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs personnel went to a vacant, single-family home in the 3600 block of Fels Lane to foreclose on the property. Inside the house they found grenades, a rocket launcher, a disassembled .50-caliber machine gun and other weapons and ammunition.
An investigation led officials to Laney, who had owned the home. At the time, Laney was in jail on unrelated charges concerning nonpayment of child support. He was about to be released when authorities found the weapons.
Allen Gosnell, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, said Laney's release would have complicated the investigation.
In 1990, while working as a quality engineer at Westinghouse Electric Corp., Laney ran for sheriff and for a seat on the county Republican Central Committee. He won a term on the GOP board, serving from 1990 to 1994. He made another unsuccessful run for sheriff in 1994.
A focus in both campaigns for sheriff was the department's response to a 1990 scandal over Nazi salutes by county sheriff's deputies. In 1994, Laney, then a member of the state Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board, accused Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo of not doing enough to clean up the department.
Laney's campaign literature for the 1994 election claimed he would not hire either of the two deputies involved in the scandal. However, one of the deputies was working on his campaign.
A neighbor said yesterday that Laney had moved out of the Fels Lane house a few months ago but stayed there on occasion. "I thought he was all right," said Samuel Smith, 83. "I was surprised to see he was in trouble."
Several law enforcement agencies are investigating Laney in connection with the weapons, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI and the Army's Criminal Investigations Unit.
"Where did they [the weapons] come from? Why did he get them? How did he get them?" Gosnell asked. "There's still a lot of work to be done and a lot of questions to be answered."
Gosnell said Laney could be charged separately for each weapon found in the home.
Possession of a destructive device carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years in prison.