Neighbors flee as woman holds boyfriend hostage

February 26, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh and Karin Remesch | Mike Farabaugh and Karin Remesch,Staff Writers

As George Staples got ready for work about 4:25 a.m. yesterday, his 11-year-old daughter, Tia, ran into the bathroom screaming that someone was trying to shoot her.

Moments later, in his daughter's bedroom at the family's Aberdeen duplex, he found two fresh bullet holes in the wall, fired by a woman next door during an apparent dispute with her boyfriend.

Mr. Staples quickly called police, who arrived minutes later but soon scattered after more shots were fired in what would become an 8 1/2 -hour standoff that forced the evacuation of 175 residents, some of whom fled their homes before dawn in nightgowns and pajamas.

The ordeal ended about 1 p.m. yesterday when police stormed the house and captured a 47-year-old woman who had held her paraplegic boyfriend hostage about four hours before releasing him at 8:20 a.m., police said.

The suspect, Mary Ann Garrison, of the first block of Defense Drive in Swan Meadows, had not been charged, pending a psychiatric evaluation at Fallston General Hospital, police said.

Edward Sawyers, the 59-year-old hostage, was not injured but suffered chest pains during the ordeal, police said. Mr. Sawyers, who owns the Defense Drive home, was in good condition at Harford Memorial Hospital last night.

Nearby residents were allowed to re-enter their homes about 1:30 p.m.

When quiet had returned to the community at last, Mr. Staples, a roofer, cleaned up the debris in his daughter's room -- and gave thanks that she was still alive.

Had she jumped out of bed as she normally does instead of hitting the floor, he said, she would have been hit by a bullet that came through the wall and landed just 21 inches above her bed.

"Thank God she acted smartly," he said. "Her first instinct was hitting the ground. I still can't believe it."

Most residents evacuated by police went to the nearby First Baptist Church of Aberdeen, then to Hall's Crossroads Elementary School, where school workers served breakfast and provided clothing.

Meanwhile, police negotiators continued trying to contact Ms. Garrison by telephone throughout the morning.

She frequently hung up on them and appeared to be intoxicated, police said.

The last shots were fired about 10:20 a.m., and negotiators had their last contact with Ms. Garrison about an hour later, police said. The weapon, a .22-caliber rifle, was recovered.

The rifle was owned by Mr. Sawyer, according to Ms. Garrison's sister, Laura Perdew, who also lives on Defense Drive.

Mr. Staples said Mr. Sawyers had lived on Defense Drive about a decade and that Mr. Sawyers and Ms. Garrison had known each other about three years.

Police said they had responded to previous calls for domestic disputes at Mr. Sawyers' home. Neighbors also said the couple often fought at the home.

"This is usually a very quiet neighborhood," said Florence Coggins, who lives two doors away, "but I've got to think about moving now. This is scary."

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