Even though the bodies of two missing Westminster men had not been found, state police charged a Halethorpe maintenance worker yesterday with killing both over a $1,200 marijuana debt.
The two men were reported missing Thursday, when the truck they had been in was abandoned in Patapsco Valley State Park with the infant daughter of one of them still in her car seat.
State police arrested Matt Gerald Green, at his home in the 1200 block of Vogt Road, Halethorpe, for questioning about 9 p.m. Friday.
They charged him yesterday with two counts of first-degree murder, though the bodies of Esteban "Steve" Santana Jr., 31, and Kurt J. Benkert, 26, both of the 1100 block of Deer Park Road in Westminster, had not been found.
Late last night, a state police spokesman said investigators were carefully checking a dirt portion of the basement of the suspect's house in the search for the bodies. "The presence of human blood is in the dirt," Lt. Greg Shipley, the spokesman, said, although he could not confirm that the bodies had been found.
Police said earlier in the day that witnesses told them that Mr. Green, who is 24, admitted shooting the two men. He was being held without bond last night at the Baltimore County Detention Center, with a bail hearing scheduled for tomorrow in Towson District Court.
"Based on the information we have, there's no doubt [the two Westminster men] are dead," Lt. Robert Scruggs, assistant commander for the state police criminal investigation unit, said yesterday. He also said Mr. Green was not cooperating with investigators.
Police said the two victims apparently showed up at Mr. Green's home Thursday morning to collect $1,200 he owed them for marijuana.
Officers said yesterday they are continuing to investigate the men's connection to what they believe is a large illegal drug operation.
"I would think it's a relatively substantial network, based on what we've been told," said Lieutenant Scruggs.
Mr. Green was fired as a maintenance worker with the Howard County Parks and Recreation Department on Wednesday, police said. A department administrator would say only that the firing was "performance-related."
Police began an extensive search for the Westminster men Thursday after 9-month-old Sabrina Santana was discovered in her father's Ford Bronco in the McKeldin section of Patapsco Valley State Park.
A couple in the park discovered the truck -- its hood warm and doors unlocked -- with the child alone and crying inside. The infant was unharmed.
At first, Maryland Natural Resources Police thought the men might have become lost while hiking or fishing along the Patapsco River.
But the initial search was abandoned Friday after police began to suspect foul play.
Yesterday, after concluding that the men had been murdered, police looked for bodies in a square-mile area below Liberty Dam. Officers said last night they were convinced the bodies were not in the park. Police say they do not know where the men were killed.
Police said they got a break in the case after talking to about a half-dozen friends and relatives of the victims. Katherine Santana told police that her husband had an appointment at 9 a.m. Thursday with someone she knew only as "Matt." Police later identified that person as Matt Gerald Green.
Mr. Green, who police said was carrying about an ounce of marijuana, also was charged with drug possession.