Man threatened to burn wife, neighbor testifies

August 07, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A neighbor of an Edgewood woman who was doused with gasoline and nearly set ablaze last year told a Harford Circuit Court jury Friday about how he managed to subdue the woman's husband.

The neighbor, Robert James Lawson, 28, testified that he intervened in the assault on the woman by Robert Joseph Mintzer, 54, of Baltimore until police could arrive.

Mr. Mintzer went on trial for attempted murder and related charges Wednesday. The trial continues tomorrow.

Mr. Lawson, who lives next door to Mary Kathleen Mintzer, 52, in the 300 block of Palmetto Court, calmly detailed his version of the events of Aug. 8, 1993, to the jury of nine women and three men.

Mr. Lawson testified that he was playing cards in his townhouse when the woman's son, Phillip Armand Nolet, came into his back yard yelling for help.

"I went out on my patio and saw Mr. Mintzer and he saw me," Mr. Lawson said.

By the time Mr. Lawson ran through his house and out the front door, he said, he heard Mary Mintzer screaming.

"Mary's front door was locked, so I kicked it in and went right in," Mr. Lawson said.

He said the odor of gasoline was very strong in her living room and he slipped on the liquid as he entered.

"Mr. Mintzer had Mary in a headlock and was holding a burning match about 8 inches from her head," Mr. Lawson said.

Mr. Mintzer kept saying, "Get out. I'm gonna burn the bitch," Mr. Lawson testified.

He testified that he rushed the man as soon as the burning match went out and Mr. Mintzer tried to light another.

"That's when he pulled a knife from behind his back," Mr. Lawson said. "I grabbed for his arm, and the knife fell to the floor. Then we began struggling."

Mr. Lawson said he was able to pin Mr. Mintzer in a corner of the dining room until Phillip Nolet and another neighbor could help subdue the man.

Mr. Mintzer subsequently was charged with the attempted murder of his wife and Mr. Lawson, attempted arson, battery and reckless endangerment.

The defendant pleaded guilty to those charges Feb. 15, and Judge William O. Carr set sentencing for April 11.

But at the sentencing hearing, Mr. Mintzer asked Judge Carr to allow him to withdraw the guilty plea. Mr. Mintzer told the court that he was rushed into accepting a plea agreement that called for him to serve no less than 15 nor more than 25 years in state prison.

Judge Carr granted the request and ordered Mr. Mintzer held for trial.

In court Friday, Mr. Lawson identified an 11-inch, bone-handled hunting knife as the one Mr. Mintzer was wielding.

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