2:49 PM PST, December 28, 2012
Editor’s note: As we usher out 2012 and welcome 2013, The Herald-Mail has prepared a package of year-end stories that provide short recaps of some of the top stories of the year past.
These stories will be published each day through New Year’s Day.
January 16 — In mid-January, local police started receiving reports of counterfeit money showing up at local businesses, a problem that would persist for months.
The fake bills were passed at restaurants and convenience stores.
Counterfeit bills also showed up when people tried to sell merchandise on their own.
One case stemmed from an incident Jan. 15 in which a woman sold a Sony PSP and 11 games to a person in a parking lot, according to court records.
The woman said a man stepped from a silver sport utility vehicle and handed her a $100 bill and three $20s.
The woman said she attempted to use the $160 at a local store and was told by store workers that the currency was “non-genuine,” the records said.
Police at one point during the year arrested two men in connection with counterfeit bills but investigators said the men were not connected to all the fake money being used in the county.
The men were arrested after police searched a city home on March 1 at 738 Summit Ave., where the two lived, and found a trash can containing sheets of paper with printed images of currency, according to court records.
— Dave McMillion
Jan. 23-24 — Hagerstown police investigated two shootings on two consecutive days. They said they did not believe the shootings were connected.
The first shooting was reported at about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 at the intersection of Cannon Avenue and North Mulberry Street near Fairgrounds Park. Police found a man with several gunshot wounds, including one to the torso.
The next day, a wounded man was found on Jonathan Street. That shooting was reported shortly after 1 a.m. on Jan. 24 in the 300 block of North Jonathan Street. Officers who responded found a man in front of an apartment building with a gunshot wound to his head.
Capt. Mark Holtzman said at the time that both victims were taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.
The victim of the first shooting survived.
The victim of the second shooting, Christopher Lee Follett, 29, of New York City, died Jan. 26.
Police charged Juan Sylvester Barnes, 28, of no fixed address, in the Follett shooting. Barnes was charged with one count each of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, handgun use during a crime of violence and felon in possession of a handgun.
Barnes was sentenced to serve 65 years in prison.
— Dan Dearth
Feb. 4 — Valley Mall was locked down and temporarily evacuated after more people became unruly while they were waiting to buy a new Nike sneaker at the Foot Locker shoe store.
About 15 officers from the sheriff’s office, Maryland State Police and Hagerstown Police Department responded to the store at 8:10 a.m. after they were notified that about 100 people had created a disturbance while waiting in front of the Foot Locker for the release of the new Nike Foam sneaker.
When officers arrived, they discovered that 100 to 150 people were involved.
“Apparently, a lot of people had been waiting a long time and people started butting in line,” Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said at the time.
Police said some people told them they had been in line waiting to buy the shoes since 7:30 the night before.
Mullendore said that after the mall was evacuated and locked down, patrons who were waiting to buy the shoes were escorted into the store a few at a time.
No arrests were made.
— Dan Dearth
Feb. 24 — Two disturbances in one night at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown led to disciplinary action against four correctional officers and the transfer of some inmates.
The disturbances occurred Feb. 18, with the first “a minor assault on (an) officer” in a segregation unit, Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said at the time.
Binetti said the second disturbance “began when a large group of inmates in a locked recreation hall became disruptive and refused to comply with officers’ orders.”
Some inmates “did throw liquids and/or other items,” he said.
Officers who responded to the recreation hall — a common area on a tier — used “nonlethal weaponry” to quell the disturbance, he said.
A source who asked not to be named said correctional officers broke out windows and used tear gas and rubber bullets.
Binetti would not describe what officers used to subdue the inmates, but said “staff did break windows.”
He said no staff members were seriously injured.
— Dan Dearth
Cold case acquittal
April 19, 2008- Feb. 24, 2012 — Almost four years elapsed between the 2008 murder of Carol Marie Brown and the trial of the man Hagerstown police charged with killing the 22-year-old mother of two in her Mitchell Avenue home.
When the case against 44-year-old Darrol Sands finally went before a Washington County Circuit Court jury, jurors deliberated almost eight hours over two days before finding him not guilty of first-degree murder and all other counts on Feb. 24.
The verdict did not free Sands, who was serving an unrelated drug-trafficking sentence stemming from an arrest two years after Brown’s murder.
Brown was found dead in the bathtub on the night of April 19, 2008. A medical examiner attributed death to stabbing and strangulation. Sands’ palm print was found on the edge of the tub and his DNA was found both in Brown’s body and her bedroom, according to evidence presented at trial.
Brown’s body was discovered by her mother. Sands and another man rushed into the house and both went into the bathroom after hearing screams from the mother, according to trial testimony.
Sands, who lived across the street from Brown, testified he had sex with Brown the night before her body was found. He explained the palm print on the bathtub as possibly having been left when he and the other man ran into the bathroom.
Defense attorney James J. Podlas presented witnesses who testified that a number of other people could have been involved in Brown’s death, including a trio of men from Martinsburg, W.Va.
— Don Aines
Meth lab charges
Feb. 6-July — A Clear Spring man who had been a fugitive since being charged in warrants in February with operating a methamphetamine lab at his home was captured in March during a routine traffic stop in Hancock.
Bryan Michael Davis, 25, of 39 S. Martin St., had been sought by law enforcement officers since Feb. 6, when agents from the Washington County Narcotics Task Force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided the house he shared with family members.
Police said they found numerous items in Davis’ upstairs bedroom that were used to manufacture methamphetamine, including Coleman fuel, drain cleaner, syringes, coffee filters, plastic tubing, blister packs containing pills, digital scales and packaging materials.
He subsequently was charged with one count each of manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of controlled dangerous substance paraphernalia, possession of controlled paraphernalia, possession of narcotic production equipment and maintaining a common nuisance.
Davis was riding in the back seat of a black Acura when Hancock police pulled over the vehicle because another passenger wasn’t wearing a seat belt, officers said at the time.
Davis was sentenced in July to serve four years in prison, according to court records.
— Dan Dearth
Chief Smith announces retirement plan
March 21 — Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith, who made fighting Hagerstown’s drug problem one of his top priorities, announced he would retire Sept. 6 after 12 years of service with the city.
“It’s just time,” Smith said when asked why he planned to retire. “I want to give someone else a chance.”
Before coming to Hagerstown in 1999, Smith served with the Baltimore Police Department, where he rose to the rank of major and retired after 26 years.
Smith, 61, replaced former police Chief Dale Jones, who resigned to head the law-enforcement branch of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
At the time of his appointment as chief, Smith said he was aware of Hagerstown’s continuing problem with an open-air drug market and considered suppressing it a challenge.
Smith had a different education than most officers.
He said he received a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from American University in 1973 and a master of science in economics from the University of Baltimore.
He also attended the Senior Management Institute for Police at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
From 2005-06, Smith took an unpaid leave of absence from the city and worked under contract for the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan, where he served as an adviser to a provincial police chief in the southern part of that country.
Capt. Mark Holtzman has served as acting police chief since Smith retired.
— Dan Dearth
State police barrack
April 30 — Washington County got a new $11.3 million Maryland State Police barrack in 2012, a facility that replaced one built in 1973 and was designed to meet the agency’s law enforcement needs for years to come, officials with the department said.
The Maryland State Police Western Operations Center on Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive off Sharpsburg Pike gives state police in the Hagerstown barrack their first fingerprint center and a crime lab that has six times more space than an old lab.
Security measures in the facility include a five-layer checkpoint system that one must pass through to reach the building’s crime lab and surveillance cameras inside a drug evidence room that can be monitored at Maryland State Police headquarters in Pikesville, Md.
State police troopers work out of the first floor of the building, which includes a flexible dispatching area that can be transformed into a central command center in case of a large-scale emergency in the area, said Lt. Thomas Woodward.
The building has dorm space that can accommodate up to seven people. There was dorm space in the old barrack but that was lost to install a “very small crime lab,” Woodward said.
— Dave McMillion
Precious metals targeted
May through November 2012 — The problem of precious metal thefts continued to make headlines in 2012 when grave sites were targeted and people were charged with stealing metal from an electric substation and from a former Hagerstown furniture factory.
Police over the last two years have been dealing with theft of metals such as copper pipe, some of which was stolen from homes up for sale or in foreclosure.
Scrap metal processors said they were aware of the problem and had set up systems to help prevent the thefts, like setting aside suspicious loads of metal brought into their facilities so police can examine them.
Police have said that just about any metal object is susceptible to begin taken, from heat pumps to catalytic converters, manhole covers, air conditioners and grates from car washes.
A Pennsylvania man was charged in November with stealing more than $40,000 worth of bronze vases from Rest Haven Cemetery on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Some of the vases were recovered, but not all could be traced to the owners, said Rest Haven Cemetery President Charles Brown.
On Nov. 1, a Hagerstown man was sentenced to 23 years in state prison after a Washington County Circuit jury found him guilty of stealing copper and other metals from a vacant furniture business.
Ronnie Eugene Domer, 41, formerly of 277 S. Potomac St., Apt. 3, was convicted of second-degree burglary, theft and malicious destruction of property.
During a two-day trial there was testimony that Domer and accomplices used walkie-talkies to communicate and look out for police during an Oct. 12, 2011, burglary at the former Statton Furniture building on East First Street, Assistant State’s Attorney Michele Hansen said.
Damage to the building totaled about $100,000 and police believed it had been burglarized more than once.
In May, Michael Steven Bray of Smithsburg was given a three-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution in connection with the theft of 200 pounds of copper wire from a Potomac Edison substation at Maryland 64 and Bikle Road in Smithsburg.
The wires were used to ground the facility and a Potomac Edison Co. spokesman said such a theft poses a threat of electrocution.
Authorities in West Virginia said in October that four people had been charged in the theft of more than 400 pounds of copper wire from multiple electrical power substations in Berkeley County since August.
— Dave McMillion
Oct. 1 — The tombstones of an infant and World War II veterans were among about a dozen grave markers that were vandalized recently at the cemetery across the street from Manor Church of the Brethren near Boonsboro.
Pastor Joy Zepp said at the time that she received a call on the morning of Oct. 1 notifying her that vandals had pushed over the headstones.
“I’m disgusted,” she said during an October interview. “I don’t understand why people have to destroy other people’s property.”
About 12 tombstones, including those marking the graves of World War II veterans and an infant who died in 1918, were lying on the rain-soaked ground. Some of the markers were so old that the lettering had worn away over time.
Cemetery caretaker Heather Gossard said the cemetery dates to the 18th century. She said the graveyard no longer belongs to the church, but is owned by a mixture of church members and others who bought shares in the property.
She said a member of the congregation discovered the vandalism, which is believed to have happened between Sept. 26 and Sept. 30.
Most of the headstones that were damaged had been pushed over. But the grave marker of the infant was broken in half.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carly Hose said no one had been apprehended as of Dec. 20.
— Dan Dearth
Nov. 11, 2010-Oct. 4, 2012 — Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove died in a gunfight with a man he stopped on suspicion of poaching deer on Nov. 11, 2010.
On Oct. 2, a jury found Christopher Lynn Johnson, 29, of Fairfield, Pa., guilty of first-degree murder in Grove’s death.
On Oct. 4, the jury that found him guilty issued its verdict in the penalty phase of Johnson’s trial, choosing the death sentence over life in prison.
Grove, 31, was a resident of Fairfield, a small town in western Adams County. He had grown up in Waynesboro, Pa., in Franklin County, and was a graduate Grace Academy in Hagerstown.
The officer pulled over Johnson’s pickup truck on a Freedom Township road, believing he was spotlighting and possibly poaching deer. Grove’s radio communications with emergency services dispatchers were recorded prior to the shooting.
Johnson was prohibited from possessing a handgun due to a 2002 burglary conviction in Pennsylvania.
A man who was in the pickup with Johnson told police that Johnson pulled a .45-caliber handgun from his waistband as Grove was trying to take him into custody.
Johnson fired 15 shots — which meant he reloaded the semiautomatic handgun — and struck Grove four times, including a fatal wound to the neck. Grove got off 10 rounds and hit Johnson in the hip.
Police found Johnson at a hunting camp the morning after the shooting.
Grove was the first Pennsylvania Game Commission officer killed in the line of duty in 95 years.
— Don Aines
Nov. 29-Present — A Maryland State Police SWAT team raided a Sharpsburg-area man’s property on Mills Road after receiving an anonymous tip that he had illegal firearms.
Two searches of 46-year-old Terry Porter’s property at 4433 Mills Road produced four shotguns, a .30-30-caliber rifle and two .22-caliber rifles, according to court records.
One of the searches was conducted by warrant on Nov. 29. Porter consented to the second search a day later.
Police could not find Porter when they entered his property on Nov. 29. The next day, he surrendered to authorities.
Porter was charged Nov. 30 with seven counts each of being a convicted felon in possession of a rifle or shotgun and possession of firearms after being convicted of a disqualifying offense, court records show.
Porter’s criminal record includes a 1992 conviction for aiding and abetting in the distribution of marijuana before a U.S. magistrate in West Virginia, according to U.S. District Court documents. He was sentenced to six months incarceration and three years probation in the case.
A person wishing to remain anonymous contacted state police in early November, telling troopers that Porter “has been getting crazier and crazier over the past several years,” charging documents said. The person also told police that Porter had 10 to 15 “machine gun style firearms,” six handguns, up to 10,000 rounds of ammunition and a bunker under his driveway.
State police called in an FBI SWAT team and the Washington County Special Response Team to assist at the scene.
The overwhelming police presence prompted some residents to accuse authorities of using excessive force. As a result, meetings were held Dec. 8 and Dec. 15 at Sharpsburg Town Hall to show support for Porter and to address the way police handled the situation.
On Dec. 19, a Washington County District Court judge granted Porter a continuance to give his attorney more time to prepare.
Online court records indicate Porter is to have a preliminary hearing on Jan. 30, 2013, at District Court.
— Dan Dearth