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The Baltimore Sun

Man sentenced in friend's strangling

A recovering alcoholic who strangled a friend he met in treatment, then stayed for two days at her Maryland City home alongside her body was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in prison in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Circuit Judge Paul Harris said that according to trial testimony, the killing was the result of a heated dispute that became "violent and out of control" on June 4 between Christopher Perkins O'Brien, 34, and archaeologist Katherine White, 32.

White had befriended O'Brien while they were in rehabilitation for alcohol abuse and offered to let him stay with her upon his release. She had repeatedly asked him to leave in the days before the dispute, but he did not and she relented, according to testimony.

O'Brien's lawyer said he needed treatment for many problems, including alcoholism and depression and that he suffered from a head injury he received in a car crash in 2002. The former car salesman apologized as he asked for a light sentence that would allow him to deal with his problems.

"I never, ever wanted to hurt Kate," O'Brien said.

Harris sentenced O'Brien to 36 months - half in prison and half in home detention - and suspended the balance of the 10-year maximum sentence for manslaughter.

The sentence disappointed Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Poma, who said O'Brien had been accused of threatening other women in the past and neglected to call police and left White dead on her kitchen floor for two days, stepping over her body, watching television and eating while he stayed in her home.

Her mother, Rebecca Randolph, went to the home after not hearing from her daughter and was met by an apology from O'Brien when she saw the body.

O'Brien's lawyer, Frank Gray Jr. , had sought an 18-month sentence, saying White had given O'Brien three times the dosage of a sedative he asked her for just before the fatal dispute. O'Brien also claimed he killed in self-defense, though the judge noted that O'Brien was 100 pounds heavier than White and was sitting on her when he choked her.

Andrea F. Siegel

Guard suspected in thefts

Baltimore police said yesterday that they suspect at least one correctional officer in the thefts of several credit cards from detainees being processed at the city's Central Booking and Intake Center. They declined to identify the accused.

Police officials said they have linked nine cases of stolen credit cards to fraudulent purchases made in Baltimore-area stores over the past six months. At least one correctional officer is suspected of using the stolen credit cards to buy electronics, household goods and other items, police said.

Authorities believe the credit cards were taken from detainees as they were being booked and first learned of the thefts after a credit union alerted them to fraudulent activity.

Police said that charges were pending.

Gus G. Sentementes

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