A Carroll County grand jury voted for murder charges #F yesterday in two recent homicides: the shotgun slayings of a Hampstead man and woman last month, and the death in February of a 6-year-old Westminster girl of an overdose of a prescription pain-killer.
In the first case, the grand jurors returned a seven-count indictment against Smith Harper Dean III, including charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kent L. Cullison and Sharon L. Mechalske on June 14.
In the second, they voted to indict Dianne Lynn Harpster for second-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Bethany Marie Harpster, at their apartment in the 400 block of E. Main St. on Valentine's Day. The 6-year-old girl was found dead the next ** morning after her mother called 911.
In April, a state medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and the cause an overdose of Roxicodone, a synthetic narcotic prescribed for pain.
Harpster also was charged in four other counts: manslaughter; reckless endangerment, for allegedly administering the drug to Bethany; and two counts of illegal distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, the Roxicodone.
A first-degree murder conviction is punishable by up to life in prison or, in qualifying cases, a death sentence. Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, while manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years and a $500 fine.
In the Dean case, Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes already has said that he will seek the death penalty. Mary land law includes multiple victims on its list of aggravating circumstances required for a death sentence to be imposed.
After state troopers answered a 911 call from Mechalske that a man was breaking into her home at 4291 Wolf Hill Road, they found 30-year-old Cullison unconscious on the front porch and Mechalske dead in a bedroom from a gunshot wound in the head, according to their reports.
Cullison, a mail carrier in Arcadia, was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore but died of a gunshot wound in the back.
Mechalske, a 38-year-old mother of two, was a systems analyst at Procter & Gamble in Hunt Valley for more than 20 years, and only on her second date with Cullison, according to family members. Her children were with their father; their parents were divorcing.
Family members said Mechalske had begun dating Dean in October but had broken off the relationship she said because he was too serious.
The first trooper to arrive at the home said Dean greeted him there and said, "It's all over. I shot them. They're both dead."
In addition to the first-degree murder counts, the grand jurors charged Dean with two counts of felony murder -- committed in the course of burglary; burglary; possession of a firearm after a felony drug conviction, and carrying a deadly weapon.
Dean, 38, of the 3000 block of Monroe St. in Hampstead, was a self-employed vendor who operated Kody's Kountry Pit on Route 30 in Hampstead.
Pub Date: 7/11/97