Shooting suspect served time for 1980 killing

Mount Airy man held in death Saturday of acquaintance, 26

April 27, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Mount Airy man charged in Saturday's shotgun killing of a 26-year-old acquaintance was convicted in the 1980 shooting death of a Westminster man at a Montgomery County shopping center, authorities said yesterday.

Dennis Brian Absher, 55, of the 4700 block of Roop Road is being held without bail at the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster. He waived a a bail review hearing yesterday in District Court.

Absher is charged with first- and second-degree murder and carrying a deadly weapon with intent to injure in the death of Aaron Hollis Smith of Beltsville, according to court documents.

A preliminary investigation for yesterday's hearing found that Absher served about seven years in prison on a second-degree-murder conviction stemming from the fatal shooting of James R. Edwards, 30, said Jerry F. Barnes, Carroll County state's attorney.

Edwards lived on Hook Road in Westminster but apparently was a frequent visitor to the Wheaton area, where he was fatally shot at Veirs Mill Shopping Center on Nov. 10, 1980, authorities said. According to newspaper accounts, Edwards was shot in the head at close range by a man sitting in a van.

Witnesses gave police a description of the van, and it was stopped in Gaithersburg. A suspect in the van, later identified as Absher, was arrested.

Absher was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. A check of criminal records did not show whether that sentence was modified, Barnes said.

Absher was released from prison in 1988 and was living in Silver Spring in 1990 when he was convicted on a drug-paraphernalia charge, court records show.

In the most recent incident, state police reported receiving a call from 911 dispatchers at 1: 55 a.m. Saturday and went to the Roop Road address.

They were able to coax Absher, a paraplegic, from his home in his wheelchair and surrender.

Inside, troopers said, they found Smith's body, with a large chest wound, next to the front door. A 12-gauge shotgun was found in the kitchen area. A spent shell was jammed in its ejection mechanism.

An autopsy by the state medical examiner confirmed that Smith died of a shotgun wound, said Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

A ballistics test will determine whether the shotgun recovered at the scene was the one used in the killing, he said.

Investigators said blood was found on Absher's wheelchair and on items hanging from the side of the wheelchair, according to court documents.

Absher's legs were paralyzed as the result of an auto accident, Shipley said.

Barnes said yesterday that he was uncertain about details of Absher's accident and when he lost the use of his legs.

State police reported Saturday that Absher appeared to be intoxicated when he was arrested. He was taken for processing to the Westminster Police Department station because state police barracks in Westminster are not accessible to the disabled. The barracks under construction will be accessible to the disabled, said Lt. Terry L. Katz, barracks commander.

Absher is the fifth person charged in Carroll County-area killings this year.

Gary D. Starnes, 48, of Frizzellburg was arrested Jan. 5 in the deaths of his mother and stepfather, Barbara and Joseph Garrity.

Donald W. Holt, 44, of Mount Airy in Frederick County was arrested Feb. 7 in the strangling of his wife, Nancy A. Holt, 43.

Wayne Anthony Wimsett, 39, of Union Bridge was arrested March 1 in the death of Jack A. White, a 46-year-old Westminster man who was critically beaten on Feb. 26 and later died.

Kristi Lynn Ziemski, 19, of Hampstead was arrested April 8, about 12 hours after the body of her mother, Doris A. Ziemski, 52, was found dead of stab wounds in her home.

Pub Date: 4/27/99

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