Man admits toppling wife from ladder But lawyers seek to suppress his earlier confession

November 26, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Marriottsville man accused of murdering his wife admitted yesterday to kicking a ladder the woman was standing on, causing her to fall and strike her head on scaffolding.

John Carroll Calhoun, 51, made the statement in a Howard County Circuit Court hearing on a request by his attorneys to prevent the prosecution from using in his forthcoming trial a confession he gave to police investigators.

"You are still admitting to kicking the ladder?" Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell asked the defendant.

"Yes, ma'am," he responded.

"You are still admitting to letting your wife lay in the yard for someone else to find?" the prosecutor asked.

"I'd rather not put it that way," he answered.

Judge Dennis Sweeney made no ruling on the defense request. Defense attorneys will outline why the confession should be suppressed at a hearing set for Dec. 17.

Mr. Calhoun is charged with murder, manslaughter, assault with intent to murder, reckless endangerment, assault and battery in the May 13 death of his wife, Gladys Calhoun, 45. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 11.

The defendant confessed to kicking an aluminum ladder during an argument, causing his wife to fall and hit scaffolding stacked outside the house, according to testimony. Police say Mr. Calhoun feigned surprise when relatives discovered the body hours later.

Mr. Calhoun made the statement during a meeting June 6 with Detective Frank Dayhoff at the defendant's home on Thompson Drive.

The defendant said yesterday that he confessed to the crime after the detective told him that he would only face misdemeanor charges for the incident.

"[The detective] said a misdemeanor would not change your lifestyle . . . there would be no incarceration," Mr. Calhoun said. "He also said he knew I didn't go out there to kill her."

But Lt. Sam Bowerman of the Baltimore County Police Department, who was present during the interview, testified that Detective Dayhoff made no such promises.

Lieutenant Bowerman, an interrogation specialist who helped county investigators, said Detective Dayhoff mentioned a misdemeanor as well as other charges and informed Mr. Calhoun that it would be up to the county state's attorney's office to set the charges.

Mr. Calhoun denied being home at the time of his wife's death in at least three interviews with police before June 6, according to testimony.

To help county detectives with the June 6 meeting, Lieutenant Bowerman reviewed an outline of questions for the interview. He also provided county police with a character analysis of the suspect.

During the interview, investigators confronted Mr. Calhoun about inconsistencies between his statements and evidence.

Mr. Calhoun initially denied that he was having an affair with a co-worker at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Lieutenant Bowerman said. Mrs. Calhoun also worked at the agency.

But he admitted to the affair when investigators showed him a translation of a letter written in Spanish by his wife, saying that she suspected the affair, Lieutenant Bowerman said.

Investigators also presented Mr. Calhoun with a statement written by his wife saying that if she died unexpectedly, it would not have been an accident, the lieutenant said.

After being confronted with the information during the two-hour interview, Mr. Calhoun confessed to kicking the ladder, Lieutenant Bowerman said.

The lieutenant recalled that Mr. Calhoun showed no emotion during the confession. "He even kind of had a smirkish kind of expression on his face," he said.

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