George Robert Chaney III was so sick when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last fall that he could barely speak while sitting in a wheelchair and breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank, according to officials familiar with the case.
So instead of prison, Chaney's plea deal earned him a 30-year suspended sentence, and he was allowed to live outside prison walls while receiving hospice treatment. But this week, the 45-year-old man twice convicted for second-degree murder was arrested again - this time he is accused of robbing an East Baltimore bank and fleeing on foot.
About 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, police said a man entered a Provident Bank branch in the 2100 block of E. Monument St., east of Johns Hopkins Hospital. He waited in line, handed the teller a holdup note that demanded cash, and then walked out of the bank with money.
Matt Jablow, a police spokesman, said that an alert city Public Works Department employee followed the robber out onto the street and caught him. A bank teller also ran out onto the street and flagged down a passing police car, filled with three officers.
"There he is, he's got him!" the teller told officers while pointing in the direction of the suspect and the Public Works employee, according to police charging documents.
The officers arrested Chaney around the corner, in the 700 block of N. Collington Ave., and allege that they found $620 in his front pocket - the same amount stolen from the bank, charging documents state.
Chaney has been charged with first- and second-degree assault and bank robbery. In police charging documents, Chaney admitted to having a cocaine addiction.
According to city police, Chaney has a history of violent offenses. In 1979, he was convicted of second-degree murder and served 13 years of a 15-year sentence in state prison. He violated his parole and was forced to finish the rest of his sentence, police said.
In 1995, he was convicted of seven bank robberies in Baltimore, and was sent to federal prison for several years, police said. Upon his release about four years ago, Chaney had to submit a DNA sample to authorities, police said.
That sample linked him to a cold-case homicide in the Perkins Homes projects on Oct. 27, 1993. Early that day, police officers responded to the home of Mary Ann Fisher, 47, and found her under a bed with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck. The state medical examiner's office ruled her death a homicide by strangulation.
To buttress the first DNA match from the federal system, Baltimore police detectives obtained a second DNA sample from Chaney after finding him in High Point, N.C., where he had been detained on a robbery charge in August 2004.
In late 2005, Baltimore police extradited him to Baltimore to face the 1993 murder charge, Jablow said. The man's DNA matched trace evidence recovered from Fisher's body, charging documents said.
Facing a first-degree murder charge and life-threateningly ill, Chaney agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in October. His sentencing was postponed to allow him the chance to seek hospice treatment, a spokesman for the city state's attorney's office said.
But Chaney, looking healthier last month, received the same deal that he had struck in his plea bargain with prosecutors last fall. At the March 8 sentencing, Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch gave him a 30-year sentence, but he suspended 28 years and eight months, and then placed Chaney on five years of probation.
Officials said they could not discuss Chaney's illness, and details of his medical treatment could not be obtained last night.
Joe Sviatko, a spokesman for the city state's attorney's office, said that prosecutors do not have a set policy on when to argue against the release of a person with serious medical issues who is convicted of a felony.
"They take it on a case-by-case basis," he said.
In an interview yesterday, Welch said he couldn't discuss details of the case. Speaking generally about cases involving very sick defendants, Welch said that judges tend to look at "the totality of the circumstances."
"None of these decisions are ever made in a vacuum," Welch said.