Man pleads guilty in death of wife He kicked ladder, causing her to fall

March 12, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Marriottsville man pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge that he kicked a ladder his wife was standing on, causing her to fall to her death last May.

John Carroll Calhoun, 52, entered a plea agreement before Judge Raymond Kane Jr. in Howard Circuit Court for one count of voluntary manslaughter.

Police say Calhoun left Gladys Esther Calhoun, 45, to die after she fell from the 16-foot aluminum ladder and struck her head on scaffolding stacked in the back yard of their house on Thompson Drive.

Calhoun told investigators he went about his day and hours later allowed relatives to find his wife's body, instead of calling for medical help, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell said.

"He said he couldn't look at her and froze," Ms. O'Donnell said. "He ran into the house. He didn't know what to do."

An autopsy report said Mrs. Calhoun most likely died within minutes after falling, but may have survived another two hours, Ms. O'Donnell said.

E9 Calhoun and his attorneys, Daniel Scherr and Jonathan

Smith, both of Columbia, did not make any statements during the proceedings.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped charges of murder, assault with intent to murder, reckless endangerment, assault and battery in the May 13 death of Mrs. Calhoun.

Calhoun, who works for the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, will be sentenced on June 24, pending a report by the county Parole and Probation Office. He will remain free on his own recognizance until the sentencing hearing.

Ms. O'Donnell said she will recommend that Calhoun receive a 10-year sentence, with half of the term suspended. She will request that the defendant receive probation, with the court deciding the length of the term.

The prosecutor noted that Calhoun's attorneys may argue for a more lenient sentence.

Calhoun appeared restrained as he entered his guilty plea and the prosecutor read a detailed report of his wife's death.

Detective Frank Dayhoff, a county police investigator who handled the Calhoun case, as well as relatives of the defendant and his late wife, were in the courtroom for the proceedings.

Calhoun admitted during a pre-trial hearing in October that he kicked the ladder. His attorneys attempted to prevent their client's statements from being used at trial, but Judge Dennis Sweeney ruled against them.

The defendant denied being home at the time of his wife's death during at least three interviews, Ms. O'Donnell said.

But Calhoun told investigators on June 6 that he and his wife were arguing while she was on a ladder cleaning gutters, Ms. O'Donnell said. During the argument, he kicked the right foot of the ladder, causing it to twist and his wife to fall.

During the investigation, detectives learned that Mrs. Calhoun suspected her husband was having an affair with a co-worker at the NSA. Mrs. Calhoun also worked at the agency.

Detectives also learned that Mrs. Calhoun once stated that if she died suddenly, her death would not have been an accident.

Calhoun admitted to his role in his wife's death after investigators confronted Calhoun with her statement during the June 6 interview, Ms. O'Donnell said.

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