After 13 years, the law catches up with robber Man is convicted of 1978 Atholton theft

June 28, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The wheels of justice nearly came to a grinding halt in the State of Maryland vs. George W. Holland.

In 1979, Holland, then 18, was arrested and charged with robbing a Columbia High's store.

A mere 13 years later, he went to trial on the charges and was convicted of robbery last week by a Howard County jury.

Holland's long association with the criminal justice system began on Dec. 19, 1978, when a man with a stocking over his face entered the High's store in the Atholton shopping center, brandished a gun and demanded money from the cashier.

Mary Jo Wagner handed over a paper bag with $389 and change. The gunman took a soda, wished her Merry Christmas and left. He and another man ran from the store and sped away on U.S. 29.

According to Holland's testimony, he "didn't look back" until his engine blew up in Albuquerque, N.M., said Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha.

Holland eventually made his way back to Maryland and was arrested on Sept. 6, 1979, and charged as being the driver in the High's robbery. He didn't show up for his scheduled trial date in Howard County Circuit Court on Aug. 26., 1980, and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Murtha said that a recent effort by the Howard County Sheriff's Department to track down outstanding warrants on older cases made it possible for law enforcement officials to catch up with Holland, now 31.

Sheriffs here learned of Holland's Virginia address and gave the information to the sheriff's office in Chesapeake City, Va., Murtha said. Holland was served with the outstanding warrant for his arrest on March 23 at his home in Virginia Beach. Soon after, he turned himself in to the Howard County Sheriff's Department.

The criminal justice system picked up where it left off in 1980, and Murtha began to prepare the case against Holland.

He assumed that locating witnesses to a 14-year-old crime would be difficult. But it turned out that the two key witnesses to the robbery, who both worked at High's, had married each other.

"They weren't even dating at the time of the robbery," Murtha said. "They were available to testify, and that's why we were able to prosecute the case."

The jury convicted Holland of robbery on Tuesday after deliberating for about 90 minutes, Murtha said. Holland was sentenced to 63 days in jail and given credit for the full sentence, which he had already served after his arrest 13 years ago.

Murtha said that Holland is married with a child and has worked as a truck driver and a private investigator.

"He's supposedly active in the church and has been a good person for 12 years," Murtha said.

Holland could not be reached for comment. An arrest warrant is still outstanding for Holland's alleged co-defendant, Meade LaProd.

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