Borchardt convicted of killing elderly couple

Prosecutor says man was seeking drug money

May 11, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Rosedale heroin addict was convicted last night of the Thanksgiving Day 1998 killing of an elderly eastern Baltimore County couple, setting the stage for a possible death sentence this month.

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury deliberated more than five hours before finding Lawrence Michael Borchardt Sr., 48, guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon.

Borchardt was convicted in the fatal stabbings of Joseph Ohler, 81, and Ohler's 82-year-old wife, Bernice. The Ohlers were killed in their home, in the 6500 block of Golden Ring Road, after returning from a Thanksgiving meal.

"We were a little more optimistic," said defense lawyer David Henninger, who had argued to the jury that Borchardt's girlfriend killed Bernice Ohler. Henninger acknowledged that nobody knows "who killed anyone in that house."

Henninger said he is leaning toward having a jury decide Borchardt's fate. The jury will choose among sentences of death, life without parole or life with a possibility of parole.

In closing arguments, Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey said Borchardt "wanted that money because he wanted to buy those drugs. Stabbing them didn't matter to him."

Change of venue

Testimony began Monday in the trial, which was moved out of Baltimore County because of pretrial publicity.

Police say Borchardt and his girlfriend, Jeanne Sue Cascio, 40, both of the 6700 block of Havenoak Road, were panhandling earlier that week in the Ohlers' neighborhood.

The couple gave them $60, which they used to buy what turned out to be fake heroin.

The Ohlers were killed the next day, when Borchardt and Cascio returned to their home for more money. Joseph Ohler's wallet contained $11, Bailey said.

Cascio was sentenced to life without parole after she was convicted in Baltimore County of two counts of first-degree murder and armed-robbery charges in the killings.

Confession

Borchardt confessed to police two days after his arrest Nov. 27, 1998, telling them he had committed both killings. Bailey and Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst said other evidence indicated that Cascio was at the scene.

"The confession is so grisly cold about it," Bailey said, later adding that "he stabbed these people so hard that he broke his knife."

That confession was the focus of yesterday's closing arguments. Defense lawyers attacked it as lacking credibility because a few remarks in it, mostly about Cascio, do not match what police know about the case.

Henninger told jurors that Borchardt admitted the slayings to deflect police attention from Cascio because he loved her. Borchardt told police she was not at the Ohlers' home, though Bailey said other evidence indicates she was there.

Neighbors and relatives described the victims as a kind and generous couple.

"They were excellent people. I couldn't have had better neighbors," Irv Tarbert recalled outside the Annapolis courtroom.

He found Joseph Ohler's body in a flower bed and called police. "He would help anybody."

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