Grand jury to question man in slaying Robertson not officially a suspect in fisherman's death

July 29, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Roy Monroe Robertson -- a Westminster man who says he is a suspect in the February shooting death of a Carroll fisherman -- is expected to be questioned about the slaying today before a county grand jury.

And, in an unusual move, Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. yesterday ordered the recording of Mr. Robertson's testimony. His lawyers had sought to bar Mr. Robertson's testimony unless a court reporter was allowed to attend the normally unrecorded proceedings.

Mr. Robertson first said he was a suspect in the death of Westminster fisherman William C. Prodoehl -- whose body was found along the Monocacy River in northwestern Carroll County on Feb. 18 -- after claiming in May that Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman deceitfully obtained his private mental health records from the Springfield Hospital Center.

Mr. Robertson alleged Mr. Hickman obtained the records by telling Springfield officials that they were being sought in a "suspected case of abuse or neglect." Mr. Hickman's stamped signature appeared on the form-letter-style request sent to Springfield.

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.

Three days after Mr. Robertson filed a lawsuit against Mr. Hickman, the state's attorney's office returned the records, saying they were useless anyway.

At the time, Mr. Hickman denied using deceit to obtain the records, but stopped short of saying his office was actively investigating an abuse case involving Mr. Robertson.

In a June 17 letter to The Sun, Mr. Hickman said the whole matter was nothing more than a clerical error. "If anything, a subpoena in the wrong format was issued in error by one of our support personnel," the prosecutor wrote.

Yesterday, Mr. Hickman repeated that explanation for the record release foul-up, but declined to confirm or deny that Mr. Robertson would be questioned about the Prodoehl killing before the grand jury today.

He and state police officials have not confirmed that Mr. Robertson is even a suspect in the case, which has been under investigation for more than five months.

"This has got to be the first case in which attorneys have labeled their client as a murder suspect," Mr. Hickman said yesterday, referring to Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S. Stainbrook, Mr. Robertson's attorneys. "We would never label someone as a murder suspect."

Filings reveal proceedings

Grand jury proceedings are always closed to the public, and advance word on the cases they consider is almost unheard of in Carroll County.

However, Mr. Robertson's expected testimony today was revealed in a series of court filings this week by Mr. Bourexis and Ms. Stainbrook, who were attempting to block the testimony unless prosecutors allowed his questioning to be recorded.

Mr. Robertson alleges "that the State's Attorney for Carroll County will present evidence to the grand jury . . . concerning the investigation into the alleged murder of [William] Charles Prodoehl" and that Mr. Robertson "may make statements that may be used against him," the filings said.

And while Mr. Hickman would not confirm the nature of today's proceedings, the order signed yesterday by Judge Burns compels a court reporter to record "the testimony . . . of all proceedings relative to the [William] Charles Prodoehl homicide."

Mr. Hickman said yesterday that obtaining a court order wasn't necessary; he said that if either Mr. Bourexis or Ms. Stainbrook had asked his office to record the proceedings involving their client, he probably would have complied with their wishes.

"We often record proceedings in an investigation," the prosecutor said. "All they had to do was call. We're very open about what we do here."

Told to get a court order

But Mr. Bourexis said yesterday that Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III -- who presents evidence at grand jury meetings -- refused to agree to the taping of today's session and told him to get a court order.

Mr. Walker, through a secretary, declined to comment on Mr. Robertson's case.

So far, Mr. Robertson is the only person who says he is a suspect in the Prodoehl murder.

He and Gina Maria Catterton Prodoehl, the victim's wife, found Mr. Prodoehl, 34, lying in the snow beside 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.

The homicide is the county's second this year. A Westminster man was killed in a drug-related shooting on South Center Street in January. Three Baltimore County men were charged in that slaying.

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