Intense search for Carter continuing Murderer escapes by jumping from courthouse window

January 19, 1993|By Eric Siegel and Michael James | Eric Siegel and Michael James,Staff Writers Staff writers Joe Nawrozki and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

An intense manhunt continues today for convicted kille Dontay Carter, whose escape from Baltimore's main courthouse during a trial prompted the suspension of two prison officers and "numerous" telephone tips about his purported whereabouts.

As teams of federal, city and state officers responded to calls of ++ alleged Carter sightings, reward money for his recapture grew to $1,500 today.

Carter -- whose violent kidnapping spree and murder of Vitalis Pilius made him one of Maryland's most notorious criminals -- was neither handcuffed nor shackled when he escaped by jumping out of a judge's restroom window about 7 feet from the pavement on the St. Paul Street side of the building and running away.

Carter is considered very dangerous -- a man on the run with nothing to lose. He was awaiting sentencing in the murder and was facing life imprisonment.

L State Police and the FBI were assisting in the search today.

City police reported numerous telephone calls from people who said they had seen Carter in West Baltimore or downtown.

Lt. Russell Shea of the Eastern District said he knows Carter's haunts and urged his officers to be extra cautious while the convicted murderer remains at large.

"All of us are definitely wearing our body armor," Lieutenant Shea said before leaving the station last night.

He said Carter needs money and warned his officers Carter could try to rob someone, possibly at an automatic teller machine. Lieutenant Shea also warned that Carter needs a car and could try carjacking again.

"He likes to hide out in vacant houses," the lieutenant said. "We'll be paying special attention to as many as possible."

Lieutenant Shea said he has never seen the city so upset about an escaped prisoner.

News of the Carter escape prompted angry state legislators to call for a review of courthouse procedures and the firing of any corrections personnel who may have been negligent. An investigation has been ordered by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Two unidentified correctional officers who escorted Carter to the restroom, only to see him close and lock its door and disappear, were suspended without pay last night pending the outcome of an investigation. Carter -- in the past described by prosecutors as a "monster" for his coldblooded attacks and lack of remorse -- called prison officials 40 minutes after his escape and told them he might turn himself in, but did not say when that might happen.

Carter was on trial at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse on charges of kidnapping Dr. Daniel Ford, a Johns Hopkins physician who had been locked in his car trunk and later assaulted.

Carter, 19, of the 1900 block of N. Collington Ave., was convicted Nov. 17 of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death last February of Vitalis V. Pilius, 37, a computer engineer and father of four.

On Jan. 8, Carter pleaded guilty to kidnapping Douglas R. Legenhausen, a Baltimore jeweler who escaped from a car trunk in the incident that led to Carter's capture.

In the middle of yesterday's trial, about 2:15 p.m., Carter asked to be

taken to the restroom, said Rachel B. Marblestone, the law clerk for presiding Judge John N. Prevas.

As his attending jail guards have done on other occasions, they took him to the private restroom in Judge Prevas' chambers, where Carter slammed the door shut, Ms. Marblestone said. Guarding him were two armed correctional officers assigned to the transportation unit of the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center.

Authorities would not divulge the officers' names, but said one had been employed since 1979 and the other since 1990. They were suspended without pay, charged with a breach of security resulting in an escape, and could face firing.

"Generally, they leave the door open. Today he [Carter] closed it," Ms. Marblestone said. "He locked the door. They gave it a minute or two. I think they were assuming he was" badly in need of going to the restroom, she said.

"They toggled the lock, called his name. When he didn't answer, one of them went outside and looked at the window and saw it was open," she said.

Carter, wearing green chino-type pants, a black belt, a short-sleeved, multi-colored print shirt and green-and-white tennis shoes, apparently jumped to a balustrade below the window or directly to the sidewalk. Authorities said a witness reported seeing Carter run south on St. Paul Street to Fayette Street, and turn west.

The jail officials went back into the courtroom to notify the judge of the escape. Dr. Ford's wife "burst into tears" when she heard of Carter's escape, Ms. Marblestone said.

Judge Prevas said that while Carter was in the courtroom, he sat at the trial table without handcuffs or leg irons, which is normal practice. The restraints are not placed on prisoners since they may prejudice a jury, he said. The judge declined to comment on why Carter was not in leg irons during his visit to the restroom.

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