Suspect Was Free On Theft Charge

September 20, 1990|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

The man accused of strangling Gwyn Dixon Criswell in Crofton Sunday had been released from police custody on personal recognizance just two days earlier -- and just three months after earning an early release from prison.

Steven Gregory Anderson had been charged Sept. 13 with breaking into a car and stealing a purse. He had been released from the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County on June 25 after serving five years for a series of breakings and enterings in Edgewater.

Anderson secured his early release by earning good-behavior and work credits.

As a condition of his release, he was under "strict supervision," which required him to visit a parole officer on a regular basis, a Maryland Division of Corrections spokeswoman said.

Spokeswoman Susan Kaskie said Anderson violated the conditions of his supervision by failing to notify his parole officer as soon as he was arrested for stealing the purse. The parole officer then could have started paperwork in motion that could have resulted in a warrant for Anderson's arrest for violating terms of his release.

An Annapolis police spokesman said Wednesday that he was surprised Anderson was released on personal recognizance, but said "they do this to us all the time."

Chief District Court Commissioner Emory Swink refused to comment when contacted yesterday. Commissioner Lisa Williams, who released Anderson last week, could not be reached for comment.

Swink said he had just returned to work yesterday and was unfamiliar with the case. It could not be determined if Williams looked up Anderson's record before setting bail.

Kaskie, of the Division of Corrections, said Anderson's prior history was known. "I'm sure the police had it," she said. "I couldn't tell you why the court commissioner did what she did."

Anderson, 29, whose listed address was in the 1100 block of Old Davidsonville Road in Davidsonville, was charged in the Sept. 13 case with theft and destruction of property. Charging documents accuse him of breaking into a car on Cumberland Court in Annapolis and stealing the purse.

On Friday, he was released on personal recognizance, the least restrictive form of pretrial release. Annapolis Police spokesman Dermott Hickey said it is the court commissioner's job to review a defendant's history.

He said his officers assumed the commissioner did that. "We run into this all the time where we don't think a person should be released. We were kind of surprised he was let out."

Two days after Anderson was released, he was charged with murdering Criswell and dumping her body behind the Crofton Library near the intersection of Routes 3 and 424.

Criswell disappeared Sunday morning after she left to go grocery shopping in Crofton Square. Her body was found Monday, following a six-hour police search through Crofton Park. Anderson was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery -- for a purse snatching which occurred Sunday night -- and with stealing Criswell's car.

State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee said that in an "ideal world," both police and court commissioners would know a suspect's record before setting bail. Commissioners, he said, "will tell you they don't have the time."

Weathersbee wouldn't say if the court commissioner should have set a high bail for Anderson following the theft charge, which could have kept him behind bars until his trial in December.

The state's attorney said it is the responsibility of both the commissioner and the police department to check a defendant's prior criminal history. The Annapolis police department arrested Anderson on the theft charge.

But Weathersbee said the checking usually is done on a case-by-case basis, depending on how serious the crime is. "It is a practical consideration," he said.

Weathersbee said no law in Maryland requires a defendant on parole, probation or other type of release to be held without bail automatically on a subsequent arrest.

Kaskie, the Division of Corrections spokesman, said a person under "strict supervision" who violates a condition of release is subject to arrest. That information would have to be presented to a judge, who would then determine if the defendant should be held without bail.

But Kaskie said it could take several days for the paperwork to go from the parole officer, through a supervisor and to the judge.

Kaskie said Anderson's parole officer found out about the arrest on theft charges from the newspaper.

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