Man seized in stabbing was parolee Ex-Patuxent inmate faces murder charge

January 02, 1991|By John W. Frece

A Baltimore construction worker accused of brutally stabbing to death a young city woman this past weekend had been twice convicted of rape and twice paroled from the Patuxent Institution before reforms made it more difficult for inmates to get into or out of the controversial facility.

William Robert Snowden, 47, of the 1800 block of Eutaw Place had been on parole from Patuxent for four years when police arrested him Dec. 30 and charged him with the first-degree murder of Diane Michelle Lemon, according to state prison records.

Ms. Lemon, 23, of the 4000 block of Hilton Road was stabbed at least 47 times, apparently with a pair of scissors, Baltimore police said an autopsy showed. Her body was discovered about 6 p.m. Saturday in the second-floor hallway of the Bolton Hill apartment building where Snowden lived. He was charged with the crime after police searched his apartment.

"It looks like an argument started in the apartment and she ended up in the hallway afterwards, right down the hall," said homicide Lt. Robert Stanton. "A pair of bloodstained scissors were recovered outside the apartment. We're not saying at this point that they are the murder weapons, but it certainly appears they are."

Snowden's confinement to Patuxent, and his subsequent parole, predated sweeping reforms pushed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and enacted by the General Assembly in 1989, which tightened eligibility for entrance and release from the 35-year-old Jessup prison.

According to Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, Correction Division spokesman, Snowden initially entered Patuxent in 1974 after a 1972 rape conviction, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison plus eight years for aggravated assault.

Snowden was paroled in February 1981 but arrested just five months later and charged with a second rape.

He was convicted in that case of second-degree rape, sentenced to an additional 20 years and sent back to Patuxent, )) where the institution's then-autonomous Board of Review paroled him a second time in 1986.

Sergeant Shipley said an initial review of Snowden's records indicated he had been complying with the terms of his parole.

"According to our initial records, he was reporting on a regular basis. He was on monthly supervision, and there were no problems with him," Sergeant Shipley said.

Police said Snowden was being held in the Baltimore City Jail and had been denied bail.

Even if bail were set and posted, Snowden could not be released because Patuxent officials now have revoked his parole, police said.

Police said Snowden apparently had been employed as a construction worker, but they declined to identify his employer.

They also said they knew little about his relationship with the victim.

Police said Ms. Lemon suffered a number of severe stab wounds and other lesser wounds to her hands, which she apparently was using to defend herself. But the police discounted previous suggestions that there had been any attempt to dismember her body. She was identified from fingerprints on file with the police.

The release on furlough from Patuxent of a triple murderer and the subsequent release of a convicted rapist in 1988 sparked changes that transformed Patuxent from a three-decade-long experiment in rehabilitating criminals with extensive psychological counseling to a more conventional penal institution.

The release on 12-hour furloughs of Robert Daly Angell, convicted of killing two Montgomery County police officers in 1976 and of killing a 17-year-old boy in 1975, first caught the attention of Governor Schaefer.

Later, James M. Stavarakas, a convicted rapist, escaped from a Patuxent work-release program and committed another rape before he was captured. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Stavarakas incident, combined with the furlough to Angel, galvanized support for reforming Patuxent.

The emergency reforms, which began to take effect in March 1989, abolished the inmate review board that had temporarily freed the triple murderer and convicted rapist and that had unilaterally granted parole to inmates such as Snowden.

The reforms also prohibited convicted murderers or rapists from being sent to Patuxent, unless the sentencing judge recommended it. It is unlikely Snowden would have been eligible for admission to Patuxent under current law, said Sergeant Shipley.

As part of the 1989 reforms, the secretary of public safety and correctional services also was required to review the cases of Patuxent inmates on work release or furlough status -- inmates who still spent each night at Patuxent or at the institution's halfway house.

The cases of inmates such as Snowden, who already had been paroled to the community, were not subject to that review, Sergeant Shipley said.

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