A former Edgewood resident jailed in Baltimore City on breaking and entering charges confessed that he is the so-called Phantom Fondler, wanted in Harford County for a series of incidents between 1986 and 1990, authorities say.
Fingerprints taken from four Harford crime scenes between 1986 and 1990 match those of Walter Porter, 29, the man city police recently arrested, said Sgt. Robert N. Richick, a detective and fingerprint expert for the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
Mr. Porter is believed to have broken into more than 20 homes in the county, where women reported that when they awakened, (( they found a man looking at them or lying nearby on the floor.
"I never closed my files on the suspect newspapers began calling the 'Phantom Fondler' " -- because he would touch or lie next to women while they slept -- said Sergeant Richick. "I've looked at those fingerprints so often, I knew as soon as I saw the prints which the city police provided, we had our guy."
Police said Mr. Porter lived on Silverbell Drive in Edgewood Meadows between 1986 and 1990. He has lived in Northeastern Baltimore for the last three years.
Sergeant Richick said that Mr. Porter was charged with breaking and entering and burglary, but not sexual abuse, because he only touched his victims on the arm or leg before fleeing.
The burglary charge, Sergeant Richick said, stemmed from one Harford incident in which the suspect stole a kitchen knife. It was found at the scene of another break-in committed 35 minutes later.
The victims were never able to provide a consistently good description of the man, Sergeant Richick said. They had variously described him as black, white, short, tall, blond-haired or dark-haired.
Mr. Porter is a very light-skinned African-American, police said, perhaps accounting for part of the inconsistent descriptions.
Sergeant Richick said that the conflicting descriptions made it harder to determine who was being sought.
Last summer a city police detective who lives in Jarrettsville recalled reading about the Harford incidents after several crimes similar to the Phantom Fondler incidents occurred in the Mayfield area in Northeast Baltimore, Sergeant Richick said.
"He called me, and I sent him copies of everything I had in my
files," Sergeant Richick said. "I always figured the guy would be caught by a patrol officer somewhere and linked to the crimes here."
Sergeant Richick said that a city officer answering a breaking and entering call recently spotted the suspect later identified as Mr. Porter inside a residence. The man turned with something in his hand and the officer fired a shot, but the bullet didn't hit him. The object in the man's hand turned out to be a screwdriver, the sergeant said.
Mr. Porter was captured a short time later. During questioning he told city police that he had broken into more than 20 houses in Harford County, police said.
The Fondler would creep into bedrooms in Harford Square and other areas of Edgewood and Abingdon to lie on the floor next to beds and touch sleeping women.
Mr. Porter is being held in Baltimore City in lieu of $75,000 bond. If he is able to post bond there, he would immediately be brought to Harford County to be charged here, Sergeant Richick said.