State's attorney returns private files of man who says he is murder suspect

May 28, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

The Carroll state's attorney's office has returned the private mental health records of the self-proclaimed murder suspect who charged earlier this week that his Springfield Hospital Center records were obtained "deceitfully," court records say.

In exchange for the return of the treatment records, Roy Monroe Robertson yesterday dropped his civil lawsuit against State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman and the Maryland State Police.

Mr. Hickman acknowledged the settlement yesterday afternoon and said that the records were of no use to investigators anyway.

"Ninety-nine point nine percent of those records were destroyed 24 years ago," the prosecutor said. "All we had were two pages, and those two pages were basically useless. It just doesn't make any sense to spend taxpayer money on a lawsuit over those two pages."

Mr. Robertson, 44, of Westminster, filed for an injunction last Friday to bar the release of his Springfield records to state police or to Mr. Hickman's office. In that request, he said he was a suspect in the shotgun death of Westminster fisherman William C. Prodoehl, who was found along the Monocacy River in northwestern Carroll County on Feb. 18.

Mr. Robertson said in his suit that he "will be charged in connection with" Mr. Prodoehl's death and that he didn't want his mental health history to be released to investigators.

On Monday, however, Mr. Robertson's Westminster attorney learned from Springfield's attorney that the hospital already had released the records in response to a March request bearing Mr. Hickman's stamped signature. The hospital released the records March 17 because Mr. Hickman's form-letter style request said the records were being sought in a "suspected case of abuse or neglect."

Thomas Faulk, a hospital staff attorney, said Monday night that Maryland law requires the hospital to release records in cases of abuse or neglect. Had he known the records were being sought in a murder investigation, he said he would not have released them.

In all cases other than abuse or neglect -- including murder -- mental health records can be released only with the patient's permission or with a court order.

Mr. Robertson filed his civil suit Tuesday against Mr. Hickman and the state police, demanding, in part, the return of the released records. He said Mr. Hickman "had already deceitfully obtained" the treatment records, and that the prosecutor knew Mr. Robertson didn't want the records released.

Millicent Edwards Gordon, an assistant attorney general representing the state police, returned Mr. Gordon's records to pTC Springfield on Wednesday, according to a copy of a letter she wrote to the hospital. The records were "not copied or redisclosed," the letter said.

Ms. Gordon could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The settlement satisfied Judith S. Stainbrook, Mr. Robertson's attorney.

"I'm always glad when anything is settled without litigation," she said. "We got what we wanted, which was to get the records back."

Marlene Trestman, the assistant attorney general who represents Mr. Hickman, said the settlement "was a reasonable response to the situation."

Although Mr. Hickman did not actually sign the records request, he said yesterday he had authorized it.

He said he did not consider it deceitful, but stopped short of saying his office was actively investigating an abuse case involving Mr. Robertson.

"In a child abuse investigation, we can't comment," the prosecutor said. He did not confirm Mr. Robertson as a suspect in the Prodoehl investigation and did not elaborate on the child abuse comment.

So far, Mr. Robertson is the only person who says he is a suspect in the Prodoehl murder. Earlier this week, state police investigators declined to confirm Mr. Robertson as a suspect in the investigation. No one has been charged in the slaying.

Mr. Robertson and Gina Maria Catterton Prodoehl, the victim's wife, found Mr. Prodoehl, 34, lying in the snow along the Monocacy River in Harney. He had been shot several times in the head.

Mr. Robertson, who lived with the Prodoehls and their two children. had gone with Mrs. Prodoehl in search of her husband when he failed to return from a fishing trip.

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