Police say a longtime acquaintance of Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall dropped in during the dead of night yesterday without calling ahead, without even knocking. It wasn't just rude, it was downright criminal.
County police have charged Virgil E. Brown, 31, of Davidsonville with burglary and theft for allegedly walking into his neighbor's place on Birdsville Road at 1:30 in the morning and walking out with Mrs. Neall's purse, then trying to swipe her Mazda Miata.
Mr. Neall, who was not expecting company, was asleep on the living room couch when the suspect allegedly walked in through the unlocked front door, stole past Mr. Neall and lifted Margaret Neall's purse off a table in the living room.
Police say Mr. Brown -- who is on parole for burglary -- might have made a clean getaway on foot, but he couldn't resist the Miata, parked in the driveway. His 11-year record of petty crime includes theft, battery, disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest and malicious destruction of property. Apparently, police say, this was his first shot at car theft.
The suspect got the car started, all right, but failed to scrape the late-autumn frost off the rear window. Driving blind, he backed the Miata into a ditch near the driveway.
The racket awakened Mrs. Neall, who hustled downstairs to the living room. She woke the sleeping county executive, who snapped into action.
"I put my shoes on and a chase ensued," said Mr. Neall.
The suspect fled on foot, and Mr. Neall took up the chase in his car. As Mr. Neall was driving down the road, he saw an Anne Arundel County police officer coming out of the Davidsonville Elementary School on Central Avenue.
"I flagged him down and said, 'Somebody stole my car!' " Mr. Neall said. The officer's suspicions had already been aroused after he saw the suspect running down a road.
The officer and Mr. Neall lost the suspect. They returned to the car, still stuck in the ditch, only to find that the suspect had violated another cardinal rule of the grand larceny business: never leave several forms of identification at the crime scene. The police officer found the car keys along with the man's wallet, containing his Social Security card and a card from the state Office of Parole and Probation.
This, said Mr. Neall, "was very helpful."
The name was familiar to Mr. Neall, who said he's known the suspect since Mr. Brown was a child. They live just a few blocks apart.
Mr. Brown, who was released in July after serving 16 months of a three-year burglary sentence, was arrested about 2 a.m. at his home in the 800 block of W. Central Ave. He is being held at the county Detention Center.
Ah, but Mr. Neall was prepared to finger more than one culprit in this caper.
"I said to my wife, 'You left the keys in the car,' " said Mr. Neall. Her denial, he said, "was diplomatic, but not printable."
Then police and Mr. Neall discovered that Mrs. Neall's purse was missing and pieced the events together.
Her purse, minus the wallet, was found in a trash bin outside a nearby store.