Probation unit lost suspect in Prothero case

Officials didn't supervise man for nearly 2 years

`The system has failed'

Moore, 3 others charged in fatal shooting of officer

February 19, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

For nearly two years, state probation officials failed to supervise one of the men charged with killing an off-duty Baltimore County police officer, a state investigation has found.

Wesley John Moore, 24, of the 2000 block of E. Fayette St. was put on four years' probation by a Baltimore District Court judge in September 1996 and ordered to meet with a probation officer twice a month. But in June 1998, his probation officer took a leave and the case was never reassigned, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Officials in Baltimore County were outraged, though not surprised, at news that Moore had slipped through the cracks in the probation system.

"The system has failed," said Sgt. Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4. "I know the Department of Parole and Probation is overworked, but that can't be offered as an excuse."

"I am not surprised," said Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "Because the system is so clogged, the parole system seems like they're trying to get people out one end to make room for new prisoners."

Moore, 24, and his brother, Richard Antonio Moore, 29, of the 2700 block of The Alameda, are being sought by police in the fatal shooting of Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero, who was killed in a robbery at a Pikesville jewelry store on Feb. 7. Prothero was working a second job as a security guard at the store.

Also charged are Troy White, 25, and Donald Antonio White Jr., 19, who were arrested days after the robbery. All four men are charged with first-degree murder.

Stuart O. Simms, state secretary of public safety, ordered an investigation into the records of the suspects immediately after Prothero was shot and killed, Sipes said.

"The secretary is very concerned about this lapse in supervision," Sipes said.

Two of the men, Donald White and Richard Moore, had outstanding arrest warrants at the time of the shooting. White had three such warrants, including one for attempted murder. Richard Moore, who police have alleged was the gunman in the Prothero case, had one.

This week, Ruppersberger and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley asked for $5.9 million in state funds to create a joint task force to tackle a backlog of arrest warrants.

State officials said they have taken steps in that direction by working to create a statewide system to track warrants. The system -- to be overseen by the public safety department -- was scheduled to begin operating in March but has been delayed until later this year, Sipes said.

Sipes said Henry R. Lesansky, the department's inspector general, is investigating why no one followed up on Wesley Moore's case. No irregularities were found in the handling of the other suspects.

Wesley Moore was given a five-year suspended sentence and was placed on five years' probation by a District Court judge in 1994 after being convicted on drug charges. Between April 1995 and May 1996, he was arrested three more times and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, possessing drugs, driving with a suspended license and carrying a handgun. Two of the cases were placed on the inactive docket. In the third, he was found not guilty, Sipes said.

But Moore did not tell his probation officer about the arrests as required, Sipes said, and in September 1996, he was brought back to District Court, where his probation was extended to this year.

Moore's regular probation meetings stopped in August 1998, two months after his probation officer went on leave, Sipes said.

Police said this week that they are concentrating their search for the Moore brothers in 23 neighborhoods in eastern and southwestern Baltimore County and West and Southwest Baltimore.

Police have put into service an automated calling system that will leave messages at 4,000 homes in those communities, asking for information about the Moores.

They are also planning to broadcast a segment on "America's Most Wanted." The broadcast is tentatively scheduled for the first week of next month, police said.

Probation problems have also come to light in the Department of Juvenile Justice, which has been criticized as ineptly treating and tracking juvenile delinquents. Experts testifying before a state task force this month said the department regularly makes incorrect diagnoses, making it difficult for them to get such help as substance-abuse treatment.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is searching for a juvenile justice secretary to replace Gilberto de Jesus, whom he fired in December after reports in The Sun that juveniles in boot camps were beaten and that the after-care system for delinquents on probation was ineffective.

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