Arson charges dropped against 19-year-old man

July 23, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Charges filed against a 19-year-old Columbia resident after a 1995 fire destroyed a Wawa convenience store in Oakland Mills were dropped yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court because of lack of evidence.

Assistant State's Attorney Janine Rice said she dismissed arson and other charges against Sam Philips because a Circuit Court judge had suppressed his confession. There was no other evidence linking him to the scene of the fire, which caused $400,000 in damage.

"It's frustrating to know you have evidence but are unable to use it," Rice said.

Philips confession led to the arrest of another youth in the April 1995 incident. The other youth, a Glen Burnie resident who now is 19, was convicted of arson and other charges in juvenile court last week.

Circuit Court Judge James Dudley ruled last month that Philips' confession was involuntary. Yesterday, Dudley denied Rice's request that he reconsider the decision.

Philips faced the possibility of up to 25 years in prison and a $30,000 fine if he had been convicted of the charges, including second-degree arson and malicious destruction of property.

William Erskine, Philips' attorney, said he did not see this case as a case of arson.

"I've never viewed this as arson, but rather as a misguided juvenile adventure with tragic consequences," Erskine said.

In last week's case against the other youth, attorneys said the youth and Philips had gone to meet girls at the Wawa.

The girls did not show up, and out of boredom, the two set a stack of newspapers on fire in front of the Wawa, attorneys said in court.

Police log

Long Reach: 6200 block of Granite Knoll: Someone took a girl's bicycle between 7: 30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday after entering the garage from an unlocked rear door.

Owen Brown: 6800 block of Many Days: Someone tore a kitchen screen at 3: 15 p.m. Friday as a resident of the house watched. Nothing was taken.

Long Reach: 8300 Silver Trumpet Drive: A brown 1990 Honda Accord, Maryland tags CKT-302, was stolen between 10: 15 p.m. Thursday and 8: 30 a.m. Friday.

Long Reach: 8800 Spiral Cut Lane: A white 1986 Toyota Camry, Maryland tags AZP-739, was stolen between 12: 30 a.m. and 9: 30 p.m. Sunday.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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