Friends, Co-workers Remember Big-hearted 'Big Joe'

Fire's Victim Shared Traits With Accused Killer

April 28, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — "Big Joe" and "Chicken Charlie," for all their disparity, shared a couple of character traits.

Each was described as a helpful person by those who knew them, willing to lend a hand with a chore or run a small errand. The men also shared a penchant for occasional exaggeration, neighbors said.

But the differences now are stark.

One is dead, the other in jail.

Carvin Williams "Big Joe" Hanna, 49, died early Wednesday in a fire that destroyed a two-story apartment house at 88 W. Main St.

Charles Ray "Chicken Charlie" Ogline, 42, was arrested hours later and charged with setting the fire that killed Hanna and left 12 otherbuilding residents homeless.

"It didn't have to occur, and the person didn't have to die," said Bob Thomas, deputy chief of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Police and fire investigators believe Ogline, described as a vagrant, set fire to a couch on the porch of the wood-frame structure, in retaliation for being told by the landlord to stay away from the building.

Ogline is charged with first-degree murder, murder by arson and reckless endangerment. He is being held without bail in the County Detention Center and could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Ironically, the couch that was set ablaze was the one on which Ogline had slept for years, police and neighbors said.

For that reason, neighbors were reluctant to believe the jobless and homeless Ogline started the blaze.

"That'd be like burning down the only place he had to live," said Carolyn Jones, a nearby resident.

The similarities between the two men were greatly overshadowed by their differences, friends and neighbors said.

Hanna was an imposing figure at 300 pounds and more than 6 feet tall, but was a kind and gentle man, said those who knew him.

"He was the kind who'ddo anything for you," said Maureen Gregg, administrative assistant at the Western Maryland College dining hall, where Hanna had worked since 1988.

"The molds aren't there any more for the type of person he was," said Gregg, who added Hanna routinely did extra work after he'd punched off the time clock. "He's definitely going to be missed around here."

Gregg said she telephoned the news to her 20-year-oldson, Michael, who formerly worked with Hanna at the dining hall and who now is in the Navy in Georgia.

"He said, 'You know why he was so big, don't you? He had to be that big to hold his heart.' "

Residents and fire officials said Hanna had been trying to alert his neighbors in the building's other five apartments before he collapsed from smoke inhalation in a first-floor hallway.

"Knowing Joe, that all fits into place," Gregg said.

By contrast, Ogline -- nicknamed "Chicken Charlie" because of his fondness for poultry -- was described as a down-and-out drifter who often created disturbances along MainStreet after several hours at Ernie's Place, a bar next to the apartment building.

Last week, Ogline had been asked to stay away from the bar, said manager Nancy Fox. Though he often helped with odd jobsor ran errands for bar employees, his disruptive behavior in the tavern and taking of tips left on tables led to the banning, she said.

Hanna and Ogline had quarreled several times, neighbors said, when Ogline created late-night racket on the porch, which was adjacent to Hanna's first-floor efficiency apartment.

"There were some bad feelings," said Clyde Stewart, who lived in an apartment above Hanna.

However, police and fire investigators believe the arson was triggered by run-ins with building owner John A. Lescalleet, not by scrapes with Hanna.

Lescalleet, a Littlestown, Pa., resident who owns several rental properties in the Westminster area, had ordered Ogline away from the building twice in the past month, fire officials said.

The fire, which investigators believe Ogline ignited at about 2 a.m. with a cigarette lighter, raged for more than two hours before 75 firefighters from nine departments in Carroll and Baltimore counties could control it.

Resident John Woodward and Westminster firefighter James Falise were treated for smoke inhalation. The blaze caused $100,000 damage.

A memorial service for Hanna is scheduled at 2 p.m. tomorrow at WMC's Baker Memorial Chapel, and is open to the public. A funeral was planned for yesterday at a funeral home in Abingdon, Harford County, where Hanna had relatives.

The Carroll Department of Social Services and the Salvation Army began collecting clothing, foodand furniture for residents who were left homeless by the fire. Items can be dropped off at the department at 10 Distillery Drive, or in a collection box at K mart on Englar Road.

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