Statements on woman's killing admitted for trial

March 31, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

James Howard VanMetre III told police he strangled a 28-year-old Pennsylvania woman on a Harney farm in September 1991 when she made a disparaging remark about his anatomy on their first date, according to a tape-recorded confession played yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court.

After a marathon third day of testimony in VanMetre's pretrial hearing, Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold ruled last night that the defendant's numerous confessions to police can be used in his first-degree murder trial, which begins April 12.

VanMetre, 35, was indicted in December 1991 on first- and second-degree murder charges in the strangulation death of Holly Ann Blake, 28, a Pennsylvania mother of three whose burned remains were later found on a Harney farm.

"I've been insulted like that before," VanMetre told Maryland State Police Tfc. Douglas R. Wehland in a taped statement on Oct. 6, 1991. "When Holly told me that, it just struck me wrong. I just broke out in a rage. I just lost it."

According to the taped statement, VanMetre and Ms. Blake were out for a walk in the woods near a farm on Old Baptist Road in Harney when the two "kissed a couple of times." The two became intimate, then Ms. Blake made the comment.

"It fired me up," VanMetre said. "I looked at Holly and grabbed her by the throat." After several minutes, he saw she was not moving.

"I just thought to myself, 'I killed her. She was dead, buddy,' " VanMetre said in his statement.

He told police that he built a fire and placed Ms. Blake's body on it, and he described where he spread her remains. He eventually led police to those places.

Since Friday, defense attorneys had argued that VanMetre's confessions -- made to police in Tennessee, Maryland and Pennsylvania -- were coerced and should be excluded as trial evidence. The defense also had argued that the indictments should be dropped because prosecutors failed to schedule VanMetre for trial within 180 days from when his attorneys joined the case.

Judge Arnold denied both motions. He said he recalled 14 separate warnings of constitutional rights by police to VanMetre during questioning.

The judge said prosecutors did not break Maryland's scheduling rule because VanMetre was unavailable for trial while he was in jail in Pennsylvania on unrelated rape charges.

VanMetre was convicted of the rape in July and is awaiting sentencing. He was extradited Jan. 20.

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