Man Fighting Extradition

Police and fire scan

January 29, 1992

MARTINSBURG, W.VA — MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Union Bridge man is fighting extradition to Maryland on first-degree murder and robbery charges in connection with the slaying of a Linganore, Frederick County, man.

Vernon Henry Bittinger, 26, was being held without bail at the Eastern Regional Jail here last night, a Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman said. Bittinger was apprehended at a motel north of Charles Town early Sunday.

Jefferson County Sheriff R. L. Buracker said Bittinger was arrested without incident at 5:30 a.m. by authorities in Charles Town, W.Va., after his pickup truck was found parked at a local inn where he was staying. A SWAT team assisted in the arrest.

Police say Donald Gravley, 32, was shot Saturday with a .22-caliber rifle. His 7-year-old daughter was tied with string and her mouth was taped by the killer, who left her lying under her bedcovers in their trailer park home. The child's mother was at work. Gravley's body was found by a family friend, Maryland State Police said.

Police say Bittinger stole thevictim's money and his truck, and the shooting followed an argument between the two friends.

Bittinger lives in the Frederick County portion of the Union Bridge area, on the 12700 block of New Windsor Road.

A contested extradition could take 30 days, officials said.



MIDDLEBURG -- State fire officials are still investigating the Jan. 13 blaze that destroyedthe nearly century-old Bowling Brook horse barn.

The fire, which also killed nine thoroughbred racehorses, caused nearly $500,000 in damage and was said to have started in one of the 50 stalls in the barn.

The state Fire Marshal's Office has said that the fire was not of suspicious origin. However, that office's Major Incident Response Team reportedly has been interviewing witnesses and has yet to issue its findings.

"As far as I know, they have not made any arrests," said Deputy State Fire Marshal Bob Thomas. "When I last talked to them, the fire was still under investigation."

The farm, a fixture here since the late 19th century, was recently refurbished. Bowling Brook was a legendary farm in Maryland racing circles until the 1950s. It is now owned by Westminster entrepreneur Mark Gross, who also owns the Westminster Inn.



WESTMINSTER -- Despite a criminal record that his attorney says makes him a major criminal, Donald Allen McCall of Union Bridge yesterday appeared before a three-judge panel in hopes of reducing his 10-year manslaughter conviction in the slaying of a Finksburg man.

"I'm not suggesting that you or Judge (Raymond E.) Beck give him a good citizenship award," McCall's attorney, J. Barry Hughes, told District JudgeJo Ann Ellinghaus-Jones and Circuit Judges Luke K. Burns Jr. and Francis M. Arnold. "But of people with a major criminal record, he's at the bottom of the scale. He's less dangerous than any other person you'll find on that list (of people with a major record)."

McCall, 32, who has been convicted of theft, drugs, weapons and traffic charges over the years, was convicted by a Carroll Circuit jury in July in the stabbing death of 24-year-old Roger Lee Childers last Feb. 8. In September, Beck sentenced McCall to the maximum 10 years in state prison.

Childers was stabbed after fighting broke out between the twofollowing a pool game at E. J.'s bar in Union Bridge. McCall has maintained that the stabbing was in self-defense.

"A true picture in this case would show that a maximum sentence in this case is not appropriate," Hughes told the panel.

Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, who prosecuted the case, disagreed.

"No matter what sentenceyou give the defendant, it's a better sentence than Mr. Childers had," she told the judges. "He has never proven himself to be a good risk to the community."

The panel is expected to issue a written decision on McCall's reduction request within a month.


State police said they arrested 10 motorists on drunken driving charges during Super Bowl Sunday.

As part of Operation PASS (Police Advocating Super Bowl Sobriety), troopers from the Westminster barracks reported that of the 10 arrested for driving while intoxicated, four refused breath tests and six agreed to take them. Licenses were confiscated from the four; the six who submitted to the test registered an average blood alcohol level of 0.14 percent.

Last year, troopers arrested six motorists for DWI during Super Bowl Sunday. Police attribute this year's higher number of arrests with increased patrolsassociated with the federally funded PASS program.


Here is acompilation of some of the crimes reported to local and state police:


Berkeley Ave.: Westminster Police arrested Brian Richard Sattler, 21, and charged him with driving while intoxicated on Jan. 25.


Charlotte Way: Westminster Police arrested Mark Duane Sisler, 30, and charged him with one count of driving while intoxicated on Jan. 19.


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