Four years ago, Glen Burnie resident Carolyn Nemethvargo hired three neighborhood teen-agers and her son to kill her husband by beating him with an ax handle. The plan failed, and now she is being ordered to pay a stiff price for employing a minor to do the job.
Under a ruling issued yesterday by a county circuit judge, Nemethvargo must pay $115,340 to the parents of a Glen Burnie man who served more than three years of a six-year prison sentence for his role in the murder plot.
Anthony Michaels was 17 -- and living across the street from Nemethvargo -- when he was arrested in March 1986, but he was tried as an adult and convicted of attempted murder.
Lucille Michaels, Anthony's mother, said, "I know he did wrong and I'm not saying he shouldn't be punished, but he should not be enticed to do something wrong by someone old enough to know better. It's bad enough with children and their peer pressure."
Carolyn Nemethvargo offered her 17-year-old son, another teen-age boy who lived with the family, Michaels and a fourth neighborhood teen-ager $15,000 of the $250,000 she hoped to collect from a life insurance policy if they killed her husband, 43-year-old Anthony F. Nemethvargo.
The teen-agers attacked the man on March 3, 1986, with an ax handle and a kitchen knife. When the man tried to defend himself with a snow shovel, they wrested it from him and used it to inflict severe head and neck injuries.
Carolyn Nemethvargo and her 17-year-old son were placed on probation, but Michaels and two other teen-agers were sentenced to prison.
John and Lucille Michaels filed a civil suit against Nemethvargo, charging her with enticing Anthony into a "dangerous occupation," said Gill Cochran, the Annapolis attorney who represented the parents. In April 1989, now-retired Circuit Judge Robert S. Heise dismissed the suit, calling the legal theory behind it "sheer folly," Cochran recalled yesterday.
"We went to court and they literally laughed at it and said it was appalling," Lucille Michaels said yesterday. "That was really discouraging."
But the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned the dismissal last March, setting up yesterday's hearing. Nemethvargo, who was representing herself, did not show up for the hearing. Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner ruled that the woman should pay Michaels' parents $15,340 in compensation for the loss of their son's services and $100,000 in punitive damages.
Cochran said: "What's the moral to this story? If you want to use juveniles to do crime, such as to be a mule carrying drugs, you better believe you've got civil liability."
Of the significance of yesterday's ruling, Lucille Michaels said, "Someone might not be so inclined to involve another person's child in something like that."