Judge in murder trial reprimands jurors

Some jurors deciding the fates of two Mexican immigrants accused of slashing the throats of three young relatives have apparently strayed from deliberations, listening to music on headphones, doing work and sitting away from other jurors, the judge said yesterday in court.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Thomas Ward gently reprimanded the jurors yesterday morning - on Day 5 of deliberations in the lengthy and complex murder trial - and asked them to return their full focus to making a decision.

Policarpio Espinoza, 23, and his nephew, Adan Canela, 18, are charged with three counts each of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Lucero Espinoza, 8, her brother Ricardo Espinoza, 9, and their male cousin Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10. The children were found dead May 27, 2004, in their family's Northwest Baltimore apartment.

Espinoza, an uncle of the children, and Canela, a cousin, could be sentenced to life in prison if they are convicted.

Jurors listened to five weeks of testimony before beginning deliberations the afternoon of Aug. 15. Early written questions from the deliberations room showed that jurors might have been having difficulty reaching a unanimous decision, but they sent no notes yesterday and made only one request Thursday. The judge gave them Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.

Ward called the jurors into the courtroom just before noon yesterday. "You have to sit around the jury table and participate," he said. Later, he added: "No one is blaming you for taking a long time because this was a long trial."

- Julie Bykowicz


Finksburg man gets 30 years in home invasion, shooting

A Carroll County man was sentenced to 30 years in prison yesterday for the October armed robbery and invasion of a Taylorsville-area home, in which several family members were tied up and the husband was beaten and shot.

Jerry Leroy Burkett, 62, of the 3200 block of Murray Road in the Meekins Mobile Home Park in Finksburg, was convicted of burglary, assault, armed robbery, conspiracy, theft and use of a revolver in the crime.

He is to serve 25 years of the sentence without parole because he has prior convictions for armed robberies in Baltimore County and Virginia, Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes told Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway.

Part of the plea agreement includes $82,552 in restitution to the victims, Rodney and Linda Hidey, of the 3100 block of Ridge Road.

Two masked intruders held Linda Hidey and her 7-year-old daughter at gunpoint after breaking in just before 10 p.m. Oct. 11. When her husband returned home and struggled with them, he was struck in the head and neck, then shot once in the leg. The family was tied up with rope before the men fled with cash, police said.

The case was solved in January when Naomi Ruth Burkett, Burkett's wife and the driver during invasion, confessed to state police, Barnes said. Naomi Burkett, 69, of the Murray Road address, was ordered to serve 18 months of a five-year sentence on her guilty pleas to armed robbery, assault and conspiracy.

She testified against co-defendant Edinson Herrera Ramirez, 41, whose last address was in the 300 block of Main St. in Westminster, Barnes said. Ramirez is expected to be sentenced Oct. 6 after being convicted in a weeklong jury trial in which he was identified as the intruder with a sawed-off shotgun, Barnes said.

- Sheridan Lyons


Milford Mill man fatally shot on city street; gunman sought

City police are seeking the public's help in identifying the gunman who fatally shot a Baltimore County man during a foot chase late Saturday in West Baltimore.

The victim, Willie Ed Hubbard, 36, of the 3400 block of Lynn Haven Drive in the Cedar Run area of Milford Mill, had entered the rear yard of an abandoned house in the 500 block of N. Loudon Ave. about 10:30 p.m., apparently in an effort to steal a stash of cocaine, when he was spotted and chased by the gunman, said homicide Detective Al Marcus.

The chase ended in the 4000 block of W. Franklin St., where Hubbard was shot. He died a short time later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Marcus said.

A quantity of cocaine was recovered from the house, the detective said.

Anyone with information is urged to call Metro Crime Stoppers toll free at 866-7LOCKUP.

-Richard Irwin


Tip leads to arrest of pair in June shooting of man

Two men accused of shooting a man in the groin during a June robbery were arrested last weekend at a Joppatowne gas station, a Harford County sheriff's spokesman said yesterday.

Sheriff's deputies found the men in a white Nissan parked at the Pulaski Highway BP station after receiving a tip from someone who recognized the suspects from a Harford County Crime Solvers wanted poster. Brian Keith Norris, 20, and Richard Oneal Lindsey Jr., 20, both of the 400 block of Holly Drive in Aberdeen, were arrested without incident and were being held without bond at Harford County Detention Center, said Edward Hopkins, a Harford sheriff's spokesman.

Norris and Lindsey are charged with attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery and related charges stemming from the June 16 shooting of Stephon Nathaniel Epps, 21, of Aberdeen in the Riverside community.

- Josh Mitchell


Construction problems delay light rail project

The reopening of the light rail system from North Avenue to Timonium - closed since January to add a second track - has been delayed by about two months because of construction problems.

Originally expected to reopen in late August, the stretch will remain closed until late October, according to Richard Scher, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration.

The light rail system from North Avenue to Hunt Valley was closed to complete the $153 million double-tracking project, which previously involved closing the southern portion of the system below Camden Yards.

The part of the system that serves Hunt Valley and other communities north of Timonium is still expected to open by the end of the year, Scher said.

"The contractors ran into more rock than was expected," he said. He added that the project also would require more retaining walls than expected.

Scher said the construction problems would not lead to cost overruns because MTA officials had planned for such a contingency. The project is 80 percent financed by the federal government, with the rest coming from the state.

-Michael Dresser


Carroll woman, 77, dies in 2-alarm fire in her home

A Carroll County woman died early yesterday when she was unable to escape a fire in her home, according to the state fire marshal's office.

Geneva Mae Yingling, 77, whose medical condition required the use of a motorized wheelchair and oxygen, was found by firefighters inside her rented home in the 100 block of S. Lightner St. in Union Bridge. She was pronounced dead at Carroll Hospital Center, said Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor.

The victim's daughter, Mary Yingling, 46, escaped uninjured from the one-story ranch-style wooden house, owned by the Lehigh Cement Co., Taylor said.

The cause of the 5 a.m. fire is under investigation, Taylor said. Damage to the house was estimated at $120,000.

The two-alarm blaze drew about 60 firefighters from companies in Union Bridge, New Windsor, Taneytown, Winfield and Woodsboro, Taylor said.

- Sheridan Lyons


Officials OK Beards Creek for use after sewage spill

Anne Arundel County health officials have reopened Beards Creek in Riva after 10,000 gallons of sewage spilled near the creek's mouth last week.

Tests of water samples show the creek once again meets the standards for recreational use established by the Maryland Department of the Environment and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information: or 410-222-7999.


Taneytown man, 52, killed when his car hits a tree

A 52-year-old Taneytown man was killed yesterday morning when his car left the road and hit a tree near the Frederick County line, according to state police at the Westminster barracks.

Hank William Honeycutt of the first block of Carnival Drive was pronounced dead at the scene of the 5:58 a.m. accident on westbound Route 140 west of Baptist Road, police said.

Honeycutt was driving a 2000 Chrysler Sebring when he apparently lost control while attempting to overtake another vehicle, the police said.


Northwest Hospital Center starts $50 million expansion

Northwest Hospital Center broke ground yesterday on a $50 million expansion project.

The project includes expansions and renovations of the Randallstown hospital's intensive care and intermediate care units, inpatient rooms and other units.

The hospital will remain open during renovations, which are projected to be completed in three years.


County police seek man who robbed Exxon station

Baltimore County police are searching for a man who robbed a Middle River gas station, police said yesterday.

A man walked up to the counter of an Exxon gas station in the 2300 block of Eastern Blvd. on Aug. 12, pulled out a handgun and demanded money from the clerk, police said. He took an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the store, police said.

Police describe the man as black, 20 to 25 years old, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a medium build, black cornrows and a goatee. He was wearing a white T-shirt with a large picture of Tupac Shakur on the front and denim shorts, police said.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Baltimore County police at 410-307-2020 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-756-2597.

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