Months after Maryland pet owners began pouring their crushed hearts out on witness stands in Howard County courtrooms, the pet cemetery owner who cheated them said he was sorry.
William A. Green, the former owner of Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park in Elkridge, admitted to a Howard County District Court judge yesterday that he mismanaged the 22,000-plot cemetery -- mismanagement that attorneys say caused some customers who brought their animals for cremation to receive the wrong ashes.
Green, who previously blamed an elaborate employee conspiracy for his problems, apologized for the first time yesterday at his sentencing hearing before Judge James N. Vaughan.
Vaughan, who convicted Green in May on the charge of misdemeanor theft, gave Green an 18-month suspended sentence, 100 hours of community service and one year of unsupervised probation.
For months, the fate of the cemetery, which is home to the pets of both former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and stripper Blaze Starr, has been up in the air. Yesterday, officials of Commercial & Farmers Bank in Ellicott City, which foreclosed on the cemetery last winter after Green stopped paying his loan, announced they have a buyer and the sale of the cemetery should be finalized by mid-September.
The officials refused to identify the prospective new owner.
Green of Sykesville still faces other troubles. He must pay thousands of dollars in restitution ordered after a Howard judge found him liable last winter in a civil case involving allegations of VTC deceptive trade practices at the cemetery. The state Real Estate Commission is considering charges arising from alleged bad business practices in one of Green's real estate ventures.
He has another criminal trial for theft related to the pet cemetery next month. This week, he was in Howard County Circuit Court facing trial on two bad check charges.
Among the many allegations that arose during the controversy was that Schaefer's black Labrador, Willie II, had been kicked and stomped on before its burial -- an accusation Green denied.
Yesterday, Green told a judge he was sorry for the "grief and the pain and the uncertainty" he had caused at the cemetery.
"I blame no one for the situation but myself," Green said.
Citing a long history of community involvement -- including past presidency of the Ellicott City Rotary Club -- Green said he was trying to get his life back on track.
Said Green: "I have always tried to give more than I take, but [in recent years] I have lost sight of that focus."
Before handing down Green's sentence, Vaughan told Green that his actions and his words seemed "schizophrenic."
For years "you've skirted the edge, walked the precipice. It's almost like you have your own standard of what's right," Vaughan said. "In this case, you blew it."
The May theft conviction stemmed from charges that he stole the remains of Dorothy and Kenneth Walt's dogs, Suzy and Tessa. Prosecutors said that Green delivered ashes to the Walts and claimed they belonged to the dogs. In fact, the two dogs were found decomposing in a shed at the cemetery.
Yesterday, Dorothy Walt criticized Green's sentence. She said that he deserved more community service hours and that his probation should be supervised.
"He should be watched. He could start all over again," said Walt of Baltimore. His actions "were such a shock. I didn't think people could do such a thing."
At Green's trial, Dorothy Walt's husband, Kenneth, testified that six days after Green had given them two gold-colored boxes purporting to hold the dogs' remains, he was called by Howard police to the cemetery, where he identified the animals' decomposing bodies.
Bobbi Jo Pitcock, one of Green's former employees, testified at an earlier hearing that Green ordered her to scoop up ashes from pets that had been cremated at the cemetery, place them in urns and give them to the customers -- regardless of what pets they brought in.
"He told me to take a handful depending on the weight of the animal," Pitcock said. "I didn't think it was right, but I didn't want to lose my job."
At the May trial, Pitcock testified that, after the police discovered the decomposing dogs, Green gave her about $200 to leave the state and warned her to "get her story straight" in talking to police.
Despite Walt's view that Green's sentence was too light, she said the most important thing is now she has the right ashes to her animals.
"They are right here in their little doggie beds with their toys," she said.
Pub Date: 8/22/97