Woman held in slaying was mistakenly released

October 11, 1990|By William F. Zorzi Jr.

Two weeks after the Maryland Division of Correction mistakenly freed a flimflam artist, she was charged in Baltimore with stabbing an elderly man to death and with trying to kill an elderly woman.

Betty Virginia Rorie, 29, who had been imprisoned for credit car misuse, was released improperly because paperwork that would have kept her in prison about 7 1/2 months longer on another sentence had been misplaced at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, according to court records and interviews with corrections officials.

The July 27 release of Rorie, who also is known as Betty Virginia Brown, is the second time in the last few months that an inmate has been charged with murder after being freed mistakenly by the Division ofCorrection.

In the first case, rapist and robber John F. Thanos was released April 5 -- 18 months early -- because a new Division of Correction policy on calculating "good time" credits on overlapping sentences was misapplied, correction officials say.

Thanos was arrested Sept. 4 and charged in a six-day crime spree that left three people dead. He attempted to escape yesterday from the Worcester County Detention Center, where he is awaiting trial on murder and robbery charges, according to authorities.

Unlike the Thanos case, which involves questions about the application of a new policy, the Rorie case is indicative of an overburdened system of manual record-keeping that is teetering the brink of collapse, according to correction officials, who requested anonymity.

Late yesterday, Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, spokesman for the Division of Correction, confirmed the details of Rorie's mistaken release and said disciplinary action was being taken against three employees, whom he refused to name.

Rorie, who has a history of theft, forgery and credit card fraud involving elderly victims, is being held in the Baltimore City Jail, charged in the Aug. 6 stabbing death of William C. Smith, 73, and the Aug. 7 attack on Evelyn Hewitt, 83, who survived after being stabbed at least a dozen times. The victims, both of whom were robbed, lived in North Baltimore.

Court records show that the crimes that led to Rorie's incarceration and early release began last fall, when she was charged in a series of unrelated incidents in Baltimore.

Those charges brought Rorie, whose last known address was in the 2600 block of West Lafayette Avenue, before Baltimore Circuit Judge Mabel H. Hubbard, who found her guilty on Nov. 7, 1989, on three counts of theft and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, court records show.

Judge Hubbard suspended all but 90 days of the four sentences and gave Rorie credit for being held in the Baltimore City Women's Detention Center since Oct. 8. The judge also put Rorie on supervised probation for three years and ordered her to make restitution on two of the theft counts, court records show.

She was released from jail Nov. 24, 1989, records show.

On Feb. 2, the Division of Parole and Probation asked Judg Hubbard to issue a warrant for Rorie for violating the terms of her probation. Judge Hubbard signed the warrant April 11, court records show.

In the meantime, on March 16, Baltimore County police arrested Rorie on theft and credit card fraud charges at the Sears, Roebuck & Co. store on Security Boulevard, court records showed. In that case, Rorie "flimflammed" a wallet from a woman and tried to use her credit card, the arrest report stated.

Rorie appeared April 24 before Baltimore County District Judge I. Marshall Seidler, who found her guilty of one count of credit card misuse, sentenced her to 14 months in prison and put her on three years' supervised probation.

On June 6, Rorie again appeared before Baltimore Circuit Judge Hubbard, for violating the conditions of her probation. The judge suspended all but one year of the sentence, but ordered that the remaining time be served after completion of the 14-month Baltimore County sentence from Judge Seidler.

About two months later, Rorie appeared before Baltimore County Circuit Judge Joseph F. Murphy to appeal her 14-month sentence in the credit card case. Judge Murphy suspended the remainder of the sentence, put Rorie on four years' probation and ordered her to complete a drug and alcohol treatment program, records show.

At that point, Rorie was freed because officials at the women's institution had misplaced the paperwork requiring her to serve Judge Hubbard's sentence -- one year, less 140 days' credit for time already served -- for the probation violation, according to court records and correction officials requesting anonymity.

bTC The sentence, which was supposed to follow the Baltimore County term, was not entered on Rorie's record, the officials said. The paperwork for that sentence, signed by Judge Hubbard, was found later in the prison office, where it had been set aside after questions were raised

about how Rorie's release date should be calculated, said one official familiar with the case.

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