Electronic system in Carroll alerts crime victims Pilot program notifies those who register of inmates' status

January 14, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

For Linda Bond, the Taneytown pizza delivery woman who was shot almost a year ago during an attempted robbery, the physical pain may never go away. But her mental anguish was eased yesterday after she registered in Carroll County's new electronic victim notification system.

The pilot program, known as VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday) links Bond, or any registered victim, to custody and court information about an inmate.

Bond, 48, registered on a courtroom telephone in about three minutes as state and local victims' rights advocates, including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, watched yesterday at the courthouse in Westminster.

"It definitely will help me relax, knowing that the [VINE] computer will automatically call me within 10 minutes if [the alleged shooter] gets out of jail, or there is a change in the court [proceedings]," said Bond.

Three of four co-defendants, who were accused of conspiring to lure Bond to a remote area five miles from Taneytown where they waited to rob her on Feb. 20, have pleaded guilty.

Corey A. Coil, 20, and Leo "Joey" Brandenburg, 18, both of Taneytown received 25-year prison sentences.

According to a plea agreement, a third co-defendant, Melissa A. Redding, 19, of Taneytown, will be sentenced to no more than 18 months in jail after testifying against Edward F. "Eddie" Sible, 19, of Harney, the fourth co-defendant.

Sible, who has been held without bail since Feb. 27, faces charges of attempted murder and attempted armed robbery because prosecutors believe he was the shooter. His trial is scheduled Jan. 26 in Circuit Court.

Signing up

Bond gave Sible's name while demonstrating the VINE registration process. The computer, built by a Kentucky company, will automatically dial her phone number if he escapes or is released for any reason, or there is a change in information about his court date.

Bond, speaking after yesterday's demonstration, said her fears about the defendants' possible retaliation did not begin until she returned home after seven days of treatment at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Police had just arrested the teen-agers and told her their names. She realized immediately that she knew them because she had worked in the cafeteria at the middle school in Taneytown, where the youths had gone to school.

"I began having nightmares and sought counseling, but I still feared they would get out of jail and come looking for me," she said.

Her physical pain -- the bullet entered her shoulder, passed through her diaphragm and lodged next to her spine -- served as a constant reminder of her potential danger as each defendant had bond review hearings.

Bond said the pain she felt with every breath did not subside until doctors blocked nerves and helped get her off strong painkillers. The bullet cannot be removed because of its proximity to her spine, she said.

If Sible is convicted and sentenced to prison, Bond said she believes her anxiety will subside as she gets on with her life.

She said the VINE system would have helped a great deal if it had been in place 11 months ago.

Linking VINE elsewhere

Shirley Haas, coordinator of the Victim Witness Unit in the state's attorney's office, said a long-term goal -- if the VINE program is deemed successful in Carroll -- is to link computers in her office, the county detention center and the Circuit and District Courts of Carroll County to computers in the state prison system.

That could take two to five years, Haas said.

"Before that can happen, the system would have to be tested and developed for each state's attorney's office, board and Division of Correction's facility," she said. "And funding the program statewide will have to be addressed."

VINE operates in more than 400 communities in 29 states, but Carroll County is the first in the nation to provide court information as well as inmate status, said Gail Hart, a spokeswoman for the company.

Townsend praised Haas and State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes for putting the idea into action.

"Victims need [this information] and have the absolute right to get it within 10 minutes if there is a change in an inmate's status," she said.

Barnes said the system was up and running late Monday, and 59 victims, who asked to be notified of an inmate's release, have been registered.

The cost of the six-month pilot program, $23,930, has been paid for by a grant from the state Victims of Crime Fund, Townsend said.

The program will soon be operating in Montgomery County, she hTC said, with the hope that it eventually will be adopted statewide.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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