$500,000 bail set for woman accused of burning husband

November 27, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

A District Court judge set $500,000 bail yesterday for a Rosedale woman charged with murdering her husband by pouring charcoal lighter fluid on him and igniting it with a cigarette lighter as he slept early Wednesday.

Milton Hawkins, 32, died of his burns at the Francis Scott Key Burn Center just after noon Wednesday, about 7 1/2 hours after his wife called to report the 4:35 a.m. fire. The family lives in the 6100 block of Marquette Ave.

Patricia Ann Hawkins, 30, told police she had been "a constant victim" of spousal abuse -- including several blows struck shortly before the fire -- and that she intended "to kill her husband before he killed her," according to records in Towson District Court.

Before yesterday's hearing, Shirley Johnson, one of Mrs. Hawkins' sisters, said the couple had known each other since their early teens and that physical abuse by Mr. Hawkins marked the nearly 11-year marriage. The couple parted several times but always reunited, Mrs. Johnson said, adding that her sister "was afraid" to make a final break from Mr. Hawkins.

"There were plenty of black eyes, but she didn't want to call the police," Mrs. Johnson said.

County police reported that officers had responded in late 1991 to a domestic violence complaint at the Hawkins home.

According to court records, Mrs. Hawkins gave investigators an oral and written confession, saying she took lighter fluid from the basement, poured it on the bed and on crumpled newspaper placed underneath the bed where her husband slept. She then ignited the fire with a cigarette lighter, according to court records.

Arson investigators found the lighter fluid and the cigarette lighter in the room after the fire, which extensively damaged the house, police said.

"Mrs. Hawkins stated she lit the fire to kill her husband," police wrote.

In arguing for bail, Robert L. Miller of Towson, Mrs. Hawkins' lawyer, said his client presents no threat to the community and is not a risk to flee because all of her family ties are in the Baltimore area and she has a good job.

Mrs. Hawkins has worked for 11 years as an insurance rater with the RCM&D insurance company in Towson. Mr. Miller said Mrs. Johnson also works there and has asked Mrs. Hawkins to live with her until the trial.

Mrs. Johnson said she is caring for the two Hawkins children, Keyani, 6, and Milton Jr., 11 months.

After Mrs. Hawkins' arrest, a court commissioner denied bail but Judge John H. Garmer set bail at $500,000 after yesterday's hearing.

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