Rape suspect arrested in Curtis Bay

January 09, 1995|By Larry Carson and Gregory P. Kane | Larry Carson and Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writers

A rape suspect from Florida -- and the woman who married him in jail -- were found in South Baltimore early yesterday, after the man's strange case was featured on Saturday night's television broadcast of "America's Most Wanted."

Charles Frank Wilson Jr., 36, who spent 15 years in prison for a 1977 rape and was awaiting trial on another rape charge, had been a fugitive since Aug. 23, the day a jury was chosen for his trial.

He was arrested by city police just after midnight in the 1400 block of Popland St., several blocks from the Pennington Hotel, where he and his wife were staying. Police said they responded to a phone call from someone who saw the man's picture on television. Officers interviewed his wife at the hotel, and found Wilson walking on Popland Street with another woman.

He was being held without bail yesterday at the Central police district lockup, awaiting an extradition hearing.

"I'm really happy. It's amazing what television can do," said Lt. Robert Mosco of the Delray Beach, Fla., Police Department. "We've been looking for him all over the Northeast and the Midwest. We were always a couple hours behind."

Wilson served 15 years of a 30-year sentence for the 1977 rape, and was freed in 1992. In July 1993, he was charged with another rape -- a crime that closely followed the pattern of the earlier crime.

"The phone lines were cut the same way, and the woman was bound and taped. She even had the same hair color [as the victim in 1977]," Lieutenant Mosco said.

Wilson was in jail on the 1993 charge when he made a random phone call to a woman whose name he picked from the local phone book. That began a relationship with Henrietta Noel Welton, 35, a polo pony groomer from a wealthy English family, according to accounts at the time in the Palm Beach Sun Sentinel.

She married Wilson in August, while he was still in jail, and then disappeared with him after helping to bail him out. She has not been charged with any crime.

Wilson and his wife have been staying at the Pennington Hotel since the first week in October, the hotel's manager said yesterday afternoon. Wilson used the name Vance Davis, according to people who knew him.

Loretta Taylor-Swann and her husband, Mike Swann, met the couple soon after they moved into the hotel.

Mrs. Wilson told Ms. Taylor-Swann that they had just moved from Florida and that their luggage had been stolen. Ms. Taylor-Swann, who lives a few blocks from the Pennington Hotel, brought them clothes from her job at a Southeast Baltimore recycling plant.

She soon befriended Mrs. Wilson, who was often alone in her hotel room. Ms. Taylor-Swann brought her books -- mysteries and romance novels -- from her job and often had her over for coffee and tea.

"She was a sweet person," Ms. Taylor-Swann said. "She offered to come clean my house while I worked because she wanted to do something for me in return for all I had done for her."

Mr. Swann said the fugitive was a "nice guy."

Mr. Swann was in Sooner's bar in the 4300 block of Pennington Ave. watching television when Wilson's picture flashed across the screen on the America's Most Wanted program. Wilson had left the bar only moments before, according to Steven Wassell, a Curtis Bay resident.

When police came in looking for Wilson, Mr. Wassell, 42, told them he had just left with a woman.

Mr. Wassell rode with police, who spotted Wilson and the woman as they turned the corner at Popland St. and Pascal Ave.

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