Former WMAR-TV sportscaster Keith Ross Mills was sentenced yesterday to nine months of house arrest for stealing prescription painkillers from his next-door neighbor in Linthicum, a woman with cancer.
Mills, 48, pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary before Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck.
At yesterday's hearing, the neigbhbor, Ladye Parsons, testified that Mills' actions had disrupted her sense of security. "I haven't beaten cancer," she said. "I'd like to know that I can die at home and pain-free."
Afterwards, she said the sentence was "more than fair."
Mills, who has been battling addiction to prescription drugs for several years, apologized to Parsons in court, saying he did not mean to make her feel unsafe and adding: "If I need to move out of my house, I will."
After his arrest in January, Mills lost his job at Channel 2, where he had worked for 18 years. Addressing the judge yesterday, he said: "I have been humbled by this experience - embarrassed, humiliated, but humbled more than anything."
Drew Berry, WMAR's general manager, did not return repeated phone calls yesterday.
Parsons went to the police in early January to share her suspicions that someone had been stealing money, jewelry and medications from her home since October 2003, according to charging documents.
Parsons said she initially dismissed her concerns, believing that her treatment for cancer was making her absentminded. She has lost a breast and a kidney to the disease.
After consulting friends and family members, she had a surveillance camera installed in her home, and on Dec. 6, 2005, the camera recorded Mills sneaking into the house, emptying pills from a bottle, leaving and the returning to apparently wipe his fingerprints from the bottle, according to Assistant State's Attorney Scott Messersmith.
Police set up a sting, hiding in her bedroom Jan. 25. They arrested Mills when he entered the house and took nine pills, including OxyContin.
Addiction to prescription pain medications is one of the fastest-growing reasons for which abusers are seeking treatment in Maryland, said Bill Rusinko, research director for the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration.
Almost a third of people seeking treatment for painkillers in Maryland come from Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, and 92% of those in treatment for abusing the drugs are white, Rusinko said.
Immediately after his arrest, Mills attended a monthlong drug treatment program at the Crossroads Centre, an inpatient facility located on Antigua. He is attending sessions at Partners in Recovery, an addiction center affiliated with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. He said he attends five Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week.
"I can't promise that I won't relapse. I can promise that I will work every day and every second to stay on top of this problem," he said in court.
His sentence also included a five-year suspended prison term, five years of probation, random urine tests and no contact with Parsons. Mills may leave his house to seek employment and attend counseling.
In September 2004, Mills was charged in Baltimore County with forging a prescription for a cough medicine that includes the narcotic hydrocodone. Two months later, he received a criminal summons from Anne Arundel County for obtaining prescription drugs by fraud. The cases were consolidated, and a Baltimore County judge sentenced him to one year unsupervised probation.