Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Carroll Digest


Jury allowed to see alleged murder-plot tape transcripts

Prosecutors will be allowed to give a jury a contested transcript of sometimes-unintelligible tapes that they say capture a college professor from Finksburg plotting to try to kill her ex-husband, a Carroll County judge has ruled.

A January trial date has been set for Constance Lee Etzler, 46, an associate professor at Montgomery College, on charges of conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder.

Richard Wayne Richardson, 35, of Westminster, a former boyfriend, was in jail in April 2001 when he contacted authorities to say Etzler had asked him to kill her ex-husband because of a custody dispute, and agreed to record four conversations, according to charging documents.

Authorities later found four gasoline cans under the Pennsylvania cabin of the intended victim, according to charging documents.

Defense attorney Leonard H. Shapiro last month disputed the accuracy of tape transcripts prepared by prosecutors and objected to giving them to a jury, saying jurors would rely upon the written account rather than trying to listen for themselves.

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled Tuesday that the transcripts would not be allowed into evidence, but could be used in the courtroom by the jury.

"Any inaccuracies found were immaterial and insignificant, consisting mostly of typographical errors. Likewise, sections which the court deemed to be inaudible were clearly marked 'inaudible' on the transcript," he wrote.

Two youths charged with painting swastikas, graffiti

Two 17-year-old South Carroll High School students were charged yesterday with spray-painting swastikas on a car and a road sign and painting graffiti on their school Saturday night and early Sunday, according to the state police at Westminster.

The two teen-agers, who were not identified, were released to their parents and referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice on charges of malicious destruction of property and a hate crime, the police said.

A swastika was spray-painted Sept. 7 on a car in Sykesville owned by a Jewish family; a daughter was a classmate of the suspects, said Lt. Terry L. Katz, the barracks commander.

A second swastika painted on a speed-limit sign in Mount Airy was discovered Sunday, authorities said. The police learned later that the school had removed some spray painted graffiti on Monday.

School board votes OKs use of $1.3 million surplus

The Carroll school board voted yesterday to spend about $1.3 million leftover from recently completed school construction projects to refurbish school tracks, renovate tennis courts and install surveillance cameras at the two high schools that do not yet have them.

They transferred $879,856 from the budget for the newly opened Winters Mill High, which was completed under budget, and $203,331 from the budget of Shiloh Middle, which opened in August 2000 in Hampstead. They also transferred remaining funds from Cranberry Station Elementary, roof projects at Liberty High in Eldersburg and Northwest Middle in Taneytown and a canceled addition to Hampstead's Spring Garden Elementary.

The Carroll County Commission must approve the budget transfers. Ted Zaleski, Carroll's deputy director of management and budget, said county staff are still calculating what funds remain from the Winters Mill project.

The track, tennis court and surveillance camera projects at Liberty and South Carroll high schools would be added to the capital budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The school board will hold a public hearing on next year's proposed capital budget at 7 p.m. tonight at Winters Mill High School just outside Westminster on Gorsuch Road.

Fallen tree, limbs disrupt power for 6,000, BGE says

Gusty winds yesterday morning brought down branches and at least one tree in Carroll County and other areas of central Maryland, disrupting service to about 6,000 customers, according to a BGE spokeswoman.

A fallen tree at Bartholomew Road and Cherry Tree Lane disrupted service to Eldersburg Elementary and Liberty High schools, said BGE's Rose Kendig. The utility received a call from the schools about 10:30 a.m. and had restored power less than an hour later.

Eldersburg Elementary's phone lines and water service were not affected by the outage and a generator powered emergency lights in the building.

The generator at Liberty High did not work, leaving the school without phones or lights; school officials said that spurred a decision to begin early-dismissal procedures.

But 15 minutes after deciding to let students go home at 12:35 p.m., the electricity came back on, said Stephen Guthrie, the school system's assistant superintendent for administration. The school buses were called back and classes continued until the normal dismissal time.

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