Dontay Carter flees in leap from courthouse window Killer's escape from judge's bathroom prompts huge police manhunt

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

Convicted killer Dontay Carter, whose violent kidnappin spree made him one of Baltimore's most feared criminals, escaped from the city's main courthouse yesterday by jumping out of a judge's bathroom window and running away.

The East Baltimore teen-ager remained on the loose last night and was the target of a huge police manhunt on the evening that mayors from around the nation were attending the city's preinaugural gala.

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.

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

City police reported numerous telephone calls to the communications center last night from people who said they had seen Carter either in West Baltimore or downtown. State police and the FBI were assisting in the search early this morning.

Yesterday's escape occurred during Carter's latest trial at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, this time in the kidnapping of Dr. Daniel Ford, a Johns Hopkins physician who had been locked in his car trunk and later assaulted.

Carter, 19, was convicted Nov. 17 of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death in February 1992 of Vitalis V. Pilius, a 37-year-old computer engineer and father of four young children.

On Jan. 8, Carter pleaded guilty to kidnapping Douglas R. Legenhausen, a Baltimore jeweler who escaped from a car trunk.

Taken to private bathroom

In the middle of yesterday's trial, about 2:15 p.m., Carter asked to be taken to the bathroom, 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 in to the private bathroom in Judge Prevas' chambers, where Carter slammed the door shut, Ms. Marblestone said. The guards are armed correctional officers assigned to the transportation unit of the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Authorities would not divulge the officers' names, but said one had been employed since 1979 and the other since 1990. Both officers have been suspended without pay pending charges for removal and have been charged with a breach of security resulting in an escape.

"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 bathroom, 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 about 7 feet to the ground and landed on the sidewalk. Authorities said a witness reported seeing Carter run down St. Paul Street to Fayette Street, where he ran west.

The jail officials went back into the courtroom to notify the judge of the escape, at which point Dr. Ford's wife "burst into tears," Ms. Marblestone said.

No handcuffs, leg irons

Judge Prevas said while in court, Carter 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 bathroom yesterday.

Judge Prevas said the bathroom window that overlooks the 100 block of St. Paul St. through which Carter escaped "hasn't been opened in 30 years. . . . I've never seen it open. He must have had the strength to open it."

Agent Doug Price, a Baltimore police spokesman, said Carter was not armed when he made his getaway but police were worried that he might obtain a firearm.

Agent Price said police protection was being offered to whoever "might be placed in jeopardy" as a result of Carter's escape.

Aldona Pilius, widow of Vitalis Pilius, was notified of Carter's escape minutes after it occurred by prosecutor Vickie L. Wash. "When I heard it, my heart just went down," Ms. Pilius said. "It's really scary for everyone. I know that man is dangerous."

Ms. Pilius said a Baltimore County police car had been dispatched to her house and was stationed outside.

She said the escape "never should have happened. They had extra guards on him. Where were they?"

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said last night that it was departmental policy that an "inmate is to be kept in sight of correctional officers at all times."

Lamont Flanagan, the commissioner of the state Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, issued a restroom policy last night in response to the escape, Mr. Sipes said.

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