Man charged in killing of next-door neighbor
A Baltimore County man was charged with killing his next-door neighbor after breaking into her townhouse through a crawl space shared by their homes and several others, authorities said yesterday.
Vaughn Lamont Garris, 36, of the first block of Heatherton Court near Woodlawn was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chontae Waters, 31, court records show.
Garris told police he broke into Waters' home to burglarize it, according to charging documents. When Waters interrupted the burglary, Garris stabbed her several times with a knife he used to pry open the attic door, the documents said.
Garris fled the scene through the crawl space and returned home, according to police. Evidence at the scene led police to Garris, authorities said.
A roommate who discovered Waters' body about 7 p.m. Monday saw that a ceiling panel that normally covers an opening to the attic had been removed, police said. The woman ran out and called police from another location.
When police entered the home, they noticed a ladder leading to an attic that was in the down position. The attic has a common crawl space with about 10 other houses, police said.
Authorities evacuated families from about six of the townhouses Monday night so a search could be conducted, officials said. One neighbor said she and other residents were placed on a Maryland Transit Administration bus for about 2 1/2 hours.
Police said that the townhouse was apparently built before the building code required firewalls.
Charles Belfoure, an architect and co-author of The Baltimore Rowhouse, said most attached houses built today have firewalls that reach to the roof to prevent fire from spreading.
"What can happen is that a fire starts in that access space, and it spreads across," Belfoure said. "You didn't have to know anything about construction to see how hazardous that whole situation is."
Garris was denied bail and is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center, authorities said.
Police said detectives are investigating recent burglaries in the area to see if they are related.
Officer identified in Taser death
Authorities said yesterday that a 10-year veteran of the county Police Department was the officer who used a Taser on a Middle River man who later died.
County police identified the officer only as Officer Mee. They said they did not disclose the officer's full name because of a contractual agreement with police officers.
Mee attempted to subdue Ryan Lee Meyers, 40, of the 4000 block of Keeners Road, who died after he was shot with the stun gun. Police said they were called to the house on a domestic violence complaint.
Meyers, who was described as mentally ill, was shot with the Taser after he refused orders to drop a baseball bat, police said.
Meyers briefly continued fighting after being stunned but then went into cardiac arrest, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Franklin Square Hospital Center, police said.
Authorities said yesterday that autopsy results were not complete.
Mee has been placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, police said.
Firefighters, civilians honored
County fire officials awarded medals to four firefighters and three civilians and recognized a captain as a veterans' organization firefighter of the year during a ceremony this week.
Fire Specialists Opie Clunie and Ronald Halley and Firefighters Douglas Sibiski and Timothy Hannan were awarded Bronze Stars, the department's third-highest award, county fire officials said.
Civilians Clinton Beck II of Vinton, La., Michael Loiero of Jarrettsville and Steve Boyd of Kingsville were the winners of the Citizen's Medal of Honor. Eight-year-old Jessalyn Nelson and her 4-year-old brother, Ethan Baker, received the department's Citizen's Certificate of Merit.
Fire officials also announced that Capt. Greg Hudnet, of the Golden Ring Fire Station No. 16, was the recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Firefighter of the Year Award.
The ceremony was held Tuesday at Goucher College.
Oral history interviewees sought
Fort Garrison Elementary School is looking for people with knowledge of community history to be interviewed by fifth-grade students involved with the Threads of Baltimore County Oral History Project.
Interview subjects must meet one of the following criteria: a current or past student, teacher, administrator or staff member at the school; a parent or guardian of a current or past student; lives or has lived within walking distance of the school.
The Threads of Baltimore County Oral History Project is sponsored by the Historical Society of Baltimore County and a $10,000 grant from The History Channel, American Express and Lowe's Home Improvement. It allows students to work with professional historians to learn how to conduct oral history research about their communities.
Interested individuals are asked to e-mail Phyllis Rosen at email@example.com.
Prague trio to perform
The Czech and Slovak Heritage Association of Maryland will present in concert the Makabara Trio, composed of students and graduates of the Jan Deyl Conservatory for the Visually Impaired in Prague.
The trio will perform at 7 p.m. today in Russo Hall on the Maryland School for the Blind campus, 3501 Taylor Ave. in Parkville. The award-winning group will perform folk, traditional and contemporary Czech music. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
More information: 410-821-5897 or 410-243-1710.
Events or news items for the Baltimore County Digest may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information should be sent at least 10 days in advance of the event.