A Gambrills native charged in the brutal killing of a woman in Florida last week had been released from probation on other violent charges more than two years early so he could move south, a request granted by an Anne Arundel judge whose sentences have drawn criticism.
The father of Matthew Robert Dieterle told Judge Joseph P. Manck in a letter last year that his son was a "few years older and has matured" since a string of arrests and a violation of his probation landed him in jail several years ago. In Florida, he would attend community college in Tampa and "get a fresh start," he wrote.
Yesterday, funeral services were held in Bowie for 19-year-old Samantha MacQuilliam, who was found beaten, stabbed and strangled last week in a bathtub in a home she shared with Dieterle. He was charged with first-degree murder after authorities found a bloody palm print on the tub's rim. He was held without bail Tuesday.
The slaying occurred about three months after MacQuilliam filed a domestic violence complaint against Dieterle in May and moved out of their home and into a shelter for women, according to news reports.
Dieterle, meanwhile, was awaiting a court hearing in Maryland next week to strike his previous convictions from his record after what his attorney, David P. Putzi, said in court filings was a year of "staying out of trouble" after his release from probation.
"The reality is, there's no crystal ball when trying to forecast what someone may or may not do," said Putzi, who defended Manck's rulings and said he is not representing Dieterle in the murder case. "You always have to hope that people have moved on from whatever their past demons were and prove themselves in their lives."
Manck, who retired in May and still hears cases, has been criticized by some who thought he cut defendants too much slack. Earlier this year, O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly sent a camera crew to Manck's home after he sentenced a Severna Park man convicted of molesting his daughter and another adolescent relative to serve four months in jail and eight months on house arrest.
"He's much too lenient for a guy who hears most of the criminal cases," Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee told The Sun in May. "Putting people in jail, or not, was the major shortcoming."
Michaele Cohen, executive director of Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, a victims' rights group, said judges must send a clear message to offenders.
"Part of making people safer is having consistent responses that hold abusers accountable," Cohen said. "They must get a message that says, 'You cannot do this, this is not acceptable, and if you do it, there will be consequences.' "
Manck could not be reached for comment; the state's attorney's office said the prosecutor who handled Dieterle's case was ill and unavailable.
MacQuilliam's family declined to comment yesterday through a relative.
Dieterle was arrested in November 2001 after a pair of incidents that took place over three days. In the first incident, two people told police that they were walking along Route 450 in Crofton when Dieterle yelled at them from his vehicle while waiting at a traffic light. Police said he then pulled into a parking lot, pointed a silver semi-automatic handgun and pulled the trigger several times.
According to a police report, the gun was either unloaded or did not discharge - so Dieterle emerged from the vehicle with a baseball bat and punched one of the victims in the head. They fled and called police.
Two days later, police said Dieterle broke into his parents' home in Gambrills. Months earlier, his father had told him to leave and that he was not welcome back, but Dieterle was seen rummaging through his bedroom, according to police. When he was arrested, police found a Smith & Wesson 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in the center console of his Ford Explorer, along with a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, police said.
Dieterle pleaded guilty in July 2002 to first-degree assault and possession of a handgun - a consolidation of the two incidents - and Manck sentenced him to four years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended. He was subsequently released from prison on work release in 2003.
According to prosecutors, Manck told him, "If you come back, and I'm not fooling, you'll be doing a full four years."
But the next year was tumultuous. In January 2003, Dieterle was ordered to stay away from a Crofton woman who said he was making threatening and harassing phone calls. She wrote in her petition that he went "to my friend's houses looking for me with a crazed attitude."
Then, in October, he was charged with assault in connection with an attack on a man who was punched in the face, kicked, dragged across a parking lot and rammed into a car. That, along with his failure to report for a psychiatric evaluation required under the terms of his probation, prompted his arrest on Nov. 19, 2003, for violation of probation.
In May 2004, prosecutors dropped the assault charges in exchange for his cooperation. Dieterle continued to serve his probation, and for the next three years faced no additional charges.
Putzi said Dieterle was not ordered to serve a full term because the charges were dropped. "If he had screwed up and was found in violation, I'm sure Judge Manck would've sent him away," he said.
Two years later, he appealed for an early release from probation and moved to Florida.
"He has lived in our home and has not been in trouble. He is a few years older and has matured," his father, Robert S. Dieterle, wrote in the letter to Manck. " ... I appreciate your consideration of this matter in providing Matthew an opportunity to make a difference in his life."
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Dieterle's run-ins with the law picked up before his arrest in MacQuilliam's killing. In addition to the domestic violence charges, he was pulled over by Pinellas County sheriff's deputies in June and faced charges that included fleeing and eluding and possession of marijuana. Dieterle has pleaded not guilty to those charges.