Women Sues Security Firm, Former Guard Over Rape

October 17, 1990|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

A Columbia woman who suffered a brutal sexual attack by a Pinkerton's security guard at her office building has filed a $2 million civil lawsuit against Pinkerton's Inc. and the guard.

The suit, filed Oct. 5 in Howard County Circuit Court, claims that Pinkerton's was negligent when it employed Keith W. McCormick Jr., 33, of Edgewood. When hired as a security guard, McCormick had a history of psychological and psychiatric problems, said the suit.

In April, McCormick pleaded guilty to a first-degree sex offense in the October 1989 attack of the woman. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

McCormick also faces first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offense charges in Harford County in connection with a separate incident.

That trial is scheduled for Nov. 29.

A kidnapping charge in connection with a third incident is pending in federal court in Baltimore. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter M. Semel, who is prosecuting that case, said McCormick recently underwent evaluation at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, Ga., to determine his competency to stand trial on the federal charges. Semel said he expects McCormick will stand trial.

The Howard County lawsuit claims McCormick "recklessly breached his duty" by failing to disclose to Pinkerton's a history of psychological and psychiatric problems that would have precluded his hiring.

In addition, the suit contends that Pinkerton's was negligent in hiring McCormick and in "failing to adequately investigate McCormick's character and background . . . (and) failing to adequately or properly test, evaluate and screen him for employment."

Officials at Pinkerton's, based in Van Nuys, Calif., said they had not been served with the suit and had no comment.

Prior to McCormick's sentencing here, an official for Pinkerton's said McCormick had passed all of the company's screening requirements before being hired, including psychological testing and criminal background checks with the Maryland State Police and the FBI.

According to police reports, the 28-year-old Columbia woman went to work at the Clark Building on Sterrett Place on Oct. 8, 1989 -- a Sunday.

McCormick completed his rounds at about 6:15 p.m. and discovered the woman working alone; he returned at about 8:30 p.m. and began choking her with an extension cord. He dragged her into an empty office and sexually assaulted her.

In the Harford County case, police say that while the former security guard was out on bail last July pending sentencing for the Columbia attack, he picked up a woman he was acquainted with from his church in Harford County and offered her a ride to church services. Instead, the woman was taken to McCormick's house, where she was sexually assaulted, police said.

McCormick then headed to Baltimore County, where, according to the FBI, he kidnapped a Goucher College student at knifepoint and forced her to drive him to Augusta, Ga. The woman escaped shortly after the two arrived.

Just before McCormick's sentencing in Howard County, he was captured and extradited from Columbia, S.C., where he had been arrested by the FBI.

In the lawsuit, the Columbia woman said she suffered "physical pain and suffering, severe mental trauma, fright, nervousness, indignity, humiliation and embarrassment due to the attack." The lawsuit also says she suffered significant financial losses due to lost work and medical bills.

Her lawyer, Joseph A. Lynott, declined to comment on the case.

McCormick's attorney in the criminal case in Howard County, Kevin P.

Murphy, said during McCormick's sentencing in August that before the Columbia attack occurred McCormick had sought help from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for psychological troubles. But McCormick could not afford the $10,000 down payment required to begin treatment there, Murphy said.

McCormick then sought help from a counselor, but apparently that intervention "was not enough," Murphy added.

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