Doctor charged with two rapes, one assault Clinic internist stalked women while off duty, police allege

December 06, 1991|By Deborah I. Greene

A physician at a Baltimore County medical clinic has been charged with raping two women at gunpoint, and assault with intent to murder in a third case. All were incidents in which police said he stalked the victims in his hours away from work.

Dr. Leonard Charles Harris -- described by co-workers as a timid, soft-spoken and good-natured man -- was arrested last Friday after a foiled attack on a White Marsh woman, said E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman.

The 37-year-old internist, who lives in the 2500 block of Arland Road in White Marsh, remained jailed last night at the county Detention Center in lieu of $500,000 bond, Mr. Miller said. Dr. Harris also has been suspended from his job at the Central Medical Center at Northpoint as a result of the arrest.

Dr. Harris formerly lived in California's San Bernadino Valley, where he worked as an emergency room doctor and specialist in internal medicine -- references that a clinic spokesman said were checked and found "impeccable."

But his resume did not mention arrests in San Bernadino on charges of prowling. He pleaded guilty to loitering, and prosecutors agreed to drop "peeping Tom" and trespass charges in a 1988 case in which a woman identified Dr. Harris as a prowler who tried to open her sliding-glass door.

Dr. Harris broke the heels of both feet as he jumped over a wall to avoid being caught, according to accounts of the incident in the San Bernadino Sun.

The Baltimore County rapes occurred in November and February in Rossville apartment developments. In each, a gunman carrying a red mesh T-shirt or cloth entered dwellings through an unlocked door and tied the wrists of his victims -- one with a telephone cord, the other with a belt.

Police gave this account of the incident leading to Dr. Harris' arrest last Friday:

A 27-year-old White Marsh woman, returning to her unlocked second-floor apartment after watching her husband leave, became alarmed by rustling sounds, went downstairs to the home of a 62-year-old woman and called police.

Before the police arrived, the woman and her elderly neighbor saw a man leave the building and followed him outside. As he stood beneath a window of the second-floor apartment, the neighbor yelled: "Stop. You're caught."

They told police that he wheeled around suddenly, pulled out a black handgun and aimed it at the elderly woman's face. The women stood petrified until the sound of an approaching siren alarmed the man. He ran -- dropping his weapon (which proved to be a BB gun), a red mesh T-shirt and a telephone cord taken from the younger woman's apartment.

The man drove away in a blue Plymouth Colt, leading pursuing police along winding roads in Perry Hall until stopping the car and surrendering.

Dr. Harris was charged with assault with intent to murder, kidnapping, breaking and entering and use of a deadly weapon in the White Marsh incident, and rape and related offenses in the attacks Nov. 10 and Feb. 7 in Rossville.

In the November incident, the victim told police that a gunman with a red-mesh cloth over his face entered through her closed but unlocked door as she lay on a couch watching television at 3:45 p.m.

The man forced her to a bedroom, tied her hands with a belt, disrobed and raped her.

The victim in the earlier case told police she was attacked in her apartment while her 3-year-old daughter was in another room. That woman told police she returned from a laundry room to her unlocked apartment about 11 a.m. to find a man with a gun hiding in a bathroom.

When the woman tried to wrestle the gun away from the man, he covered her head with a red mesh T-shirt, led her to the living room, tied her hands with a telephone cord and raped her.

At the time of the February attack, Dr. Harris was working in the city as an internist at the Eastside Medical Clinic in the 1200 block of East Monument Street.

His former supervisor, Sandy Pappas, said yesterday that Dr. Harris should have been in the office at the time. But Dr. Harris would leave for hours without explanation, giving instructions that he could be reached by a pager if a patient should arrive, she said.

"He did good reports, but he'd wander off. . . . I finally had to let him go, because that's not the way we work here," Ms. Pappas said.

Dr. Burney Dawn, a general practitioner at the Eastside clinic, said she was shocked when the doctor she had grown to accept as a friend outside of the office -- even arranging a date between him and her girlfriend -- could be accused of such violence.

"That just doesn't sound like the person I knew," Dr. Dawn said. "He was such a soft-spoken, gentlemanly man in his demeanor. If this is true, then I can see this timid man becoming a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Dr. Harris left the Eastside clinic in May.

David Kirby, a spokesman for the Central Medical Center where Dr. Harris began working in June, said there had been no complaint against him from any female staff members or patients, "never any sign of abhorrent behavior."

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