2 of 4 plead guilty in killing in Essex
Two of the four suspects charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of an Essex man have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, a county prosecutor said yesterday.
James Edward Smoot, 15, pleaded guilty this week in county Circuit Court to second-degree murder in the Dec. 17 death of Marquel Smith, who was shot several times in front of his home in the first block of Rumelia Circle in what was described as a gang-related killing. Smoot, accused of being the shooter, pleaded guilty Tuesday under an agreement that calls for him to serve 20 years in prison, said J.R. Francomano, an assistant state's attorney.
Smoot, of the first block of Moline Circle in Essex, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.
Troy Wesley Smith, 24, also of the first block of Rumelia Circle, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit armed robbery under an agreement that calls for him to serve 10 years in prison, Francomano said.
Jury selection began yesterday in the trial of the two other suspects, Michael Anthony Banks, 20, of Altoona, Pa., and Tavon Martez Mouzone, 21, of the 4600 block of Park Heights Ave. in Baltimore.
Marquel Smith, 32, was killed over a debt he owed to the Bloods gang, Francomano said.
Alleged school attack probed
County police were investigating a report that a Randallstown High School teacher stabbed a student's hand with a pen or pencil yesterday.
According to a statement to authorities from the student, the incident occurred after the teacher asked the student to stop leaning against a desk, said Cpl. Michael Hill, a police spokesman. Hill said he did not know the gender or age of the student and teacher.
Investigators from the county's crime lab went to the school and observed a scratch on the student's hand but no puncture wounds, Hill said. No charges have been filed, said Hill, who added that police were interviewing witnesses yesterday afternoon.
Charles Herndon, a school system spokesman, said he was aware of the police investigation but provided no additional details.
"We're still looking into this," Herndon said. "Anytime there is an accusation of any kind of inappropriate contact with a student by a staff member, there is a process we follow."
He referred to the school system's policy that states an "employee, substitute, volunteer, student teacher, or student intern suspected of child abuse, neglect, and/or inappropriate behavior towards a student will be dealt with in accordance with applicable laws and school system rules."
Gina Davis and Josh Mitchell
Tax-credit changes proposed
A county councilman has proposed changes to a program that provides tax credits to owners of commercial buildings that meet a standard for energy efficiency, aiming to provide smaller credits to more owners.
The county government began this year providing credits equal to 100 percent of a property tax bill for newly constructed buildings that achieve a silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council. Under a proposal by Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, the credit for those buildings would be equal to 50 percent of the bill. Larger credits would be awarded by the council for buildings that achieve higher ratings.
The proposal also would extend the credits to existing buildings that meet the council's standards. And it would limit the number of years the owners would receive the credits to five, instead of the current limit of 10 years.
Because the council has imposed a limit of $5 million on the amount of credits awarded by the county, Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, said he wanted to ensure the credits were spread among a maximum number of owners. The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Monday.
Help sought on ID of thief
Police asked yesterday for the public's help in identifying a man wanted in a burglary last month at gas station in southwestern Baltimore County.
County police said they believe the burglary of the Safeway station in the 5600 block of Baltimore National Pike took place early Oct. 14. The manager arrived at 7 a.m. that day and found the door unlocked. She discovered that lottery tickets, cigars and cigarettes had been stolen, according to police.
Several days later, a man cashing in lottery tickets taken in the burglary at a 7-Eleven store in the 1800 block of Woodlawn Drive was caught on videotape, police said.
Anyone with information was asked to call county police at 410-887-6296 or, after 10 p.m., 410-307-2020, or Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-7-LOCKUP. Callers to Metro Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000.
Park to be dedicated today
Gateway Park, at Liberty and McDonogh roads, includes a large, curved stone wall with "Randallstown" carved into it, new trees, shrubs, tiered seating, a decorative water fountain and ornamental light poles.
The nearly $500,000 project was paid for by county government. Northwest Hospital contributed money to cover maintenance of the park for four years.
The Randallstown Gateway Park project was a collaboration of government, business and community.
The Liberty Road Business Association, Fieldstone Community Association and Rehoboth International Covenant Church also were involved in the project.
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