Arnold Bates, charged with stabbing a city social services worker to death Tuesday, roamed the streets of West Baltimore for more than a year, often in a cocaine-induced daze, while under the supervision of state parole and probation agents, relatives say.
Over the past year, Bates was arrested on theft charges three times and convicted once. But there was never any move to put him back in jail, according to state parole and probation officials.
Bates, 34, was denied bail yesterday in the stabbing death of 29-year-old social services worker Tanja Brown-O'Neal. She died after being attacked in a crowded reception room at the Rosemont Multipurpose Center in West Baltimore.
Bates had been on parole or probation since his release from prison in May 1990, state officials said. In 1989, Baltimore Circuit Judge John Carroll Byrnes sentenced him to six years in prison, suspended all but 15 months of the term and put Bates on four years' probation for assaulting a 72-year-old handicapped woman and stealing her purse.
On the probation order, the judge took the unusual step of calling Bates "potentially dangerous" without medication for /^ schizophrenia. "He virtually announced his intention to violate probation," he wrote.
Bates was paroled after serving eight months of the 15-month term.
Yesterday, Byrnes said it appears that his warning was ignored by parole and probation agents, who, for two months, placed Bates on the lowest level of supervision.
"It had to be ignored," he said. "It troubles me."
Despite three arrests and the continued drug abuse alleged by his relatives, Bates was not brought before a judge on a probation violation.
Bates' family could have "verified that he was back into drugs," Byrnes said.
The suspect's brother, who did not want to be identified by name, said Bates was unemployed and lived in the back yard of his 72-year-old mother's home on West Fayette Street. The family has known for some time that Bates was injecting cocaine, his brother said.
"The system does not want to take care of nobody that is mentally disturbed because it costs too much money send them someplace," he said. "If they were doing their job, they would have locked him up and gotten him some help. They wasn't checking on him. They could have come here."
The brother, who is 40, said his family is saddened by the social worker's death.
"We feel for her family," he said. "I want to go to her funeral. It hurts me so much that I would get on my knees and say, 'I'm so sorry.' "
MA O'Neal, a caseworker at the Rosemont Multipurpose Center, was
stabbed in the chest Tuesday in a crowded reception room, police said. Her attacker was complaining about his inability to get food stamps.
Bates, who was shot and wounded by a security guard, was charged with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon after his release from a hospital, police said.
Susan G. Kaskie, spokeswoman for the state Division of Parole and Probation, said a routine review of the case was under way: "If . . . discipline is necessary, it will be meted."
In 1990, Bates was arrested twice on theft charges, Kaskie said. He was convicted in one case but it was unclear whether he served jail time. The other 1990 theft case and one last March were both placed on inactive dockets by prosecutors.
The conviction should have resulted in a violation hearing, Byrnes said. At the hearing the judge could have imposed the balance of the sentence for the 1989 purse-snatching.
Kaskie said Bates saw a probation agent for the first time in February after completing parole. Despite the judge's warning, the case was handled in the "administrative" probation level, where contact with probationers is infrequent.
The case was placed on the next-highest level of supervision after Bates was arrested on theft charges last March, Kaskie said.
Kaskie said Bates visited his probation agent three times in the past month, but each time failed to bring proof that he had been meeting the conditions of his probation, which included drug and alcohol screening and psychiatric treatment.
After each visit, the agent would schedule another visit for Bates to bring the documentation. Kaskie said his next visit was to be Monday.
"I'm not being critical of the [Division] of Parole and Probation because they are terribly overloaded," Byrnes said. "But I assumed that they would give it special attention because of the note that I wrote. It may have been the first time I've done it in nine years. I don't know why it didn't trigger a special response."
Bates' criminal record, which dates to 1978, includes more than a dozen assault and marijuana-possession charges.