Charges are dropped against 4 relatives of 'Supermax' escapee Police had said someone helped Dean

November 27, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

The Baltimore state's attorney's office has dropped criminal charges against four relatives of Harold Benjamin Dean, who police said had been helped by his family when he escaped from Maryland's "Supermax" prison last year.

Although investigators had initially maintained that Dean had received extensive help in the escape, the cases against the relatives contained "insufficient evidence to warrant further proceedings," said Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms.

Dean, a convicted killer who is the only person ever to escape from ultra-security Supermax, was re-captured last month in Ohio after being on the run for 10 months. He is being held in a Columbus prison awaiting extradition back to Maryland.

Sources in the investigation said that Dean, a slender man, wriggled out of a Supermax cell window on Nov. 30, 1991, and was picked up in a car at a pre-arranged rendezvous point -- a bridge on Monroe Street near the old Montgomery Ward store where, during a robbery 11 years ago, he had shot and critically injured an armored car guard.

After his escape from Supermax, Dean told accomplices that he was hoping to hide out in the Kentucky hills, but that he would contact them through junk mail and "some sort of numerical code," said one law-enforcement official.

After the accomplices memorized the way that he planned to contact them, they flushed the code down the toilet, the official said.

Dean was then driven to Charleston, W.Va., where he bought a $44 bus ticket, the source said.

Police recovered several hacksaw blades believed used in the Dean escape, and they are believed to have been smuggled inside the prison.

But it has never been established how Dean got the blades, the source said.

In June, while Dean was still running from authorities, a Baltimore grand jury indicted four of his relatives on charges that they had conspired with Dean to commit his escape and had driven him out of the state after providing him with money to start his new life.

The relatives included Dean's common-law wife, Jane F. Hoover, 38, of the 300 block of S. Fulton Ave., Baltimore, and her sister, Peggy L. Coleman, 33, of the 300 block of S. Payson St. Also indicted were his niece, Sharon G. Black, 25, of Winchester, Va., and his nephew, Eric S. Black, 22, of Morgantown, W.Va.

Each had been charged with conspiracy to commit escape, aiding and abetting a felon, and accessory to the crime of escape.

Mr. Simms said his office made "a qualitative judgment" that the evidence against the four family members was insufficient.

The state's attorney said he felt that the justice system has done its job with respect to the Dean escape.

"One has to keep in mind what the ultimate goal was, and that was the apprehension of Mr. Dean. And that's happened," Mr. Simms said.

At the time of his capture by federal agents on Oct. 1, Dean, 40, had been working for several months as an attendant at a Sunoco service station in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg.

He had been living under the assumed name of Edward R. Ratliff.

Dean was serving a life term plus 105 years for robbing the Montgomery Ward store on South Monroe Street, critically wounding an armored guard and killing a tow truck driver who chased after him and an accomplice following the 1981 holdup.

On the night Dean escaped from Supermax, he arranged to be picked up on Monroe Street near the old department store, investigators said.

Dean's escape shocked correctional officials, who previously had considered the $21 million Supermax facility on East Madison Street to be virtually escape-proof.

Dean's cellmate at Supermax, John Allen Dempsey, attempted to escape at the same time but got caught in the 8-by-22-inch cell window through which Dean had just passed.

Dempsey, who is serving three life terms for rape, was convicted of the attempted escape and Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe sentenced him to serve one more day in prison.

The judge wrote in her explanation of the unusual sentence that "the defendant is already serving three life terms."

The prison, formally known as the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, is only a block from the Maryland Penitentiary, from which Dean and another inmate escaped in September 1985 using a rope of knotted sheets.

Dean broke a foot in that escape, and he was caught the next day.

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