Woman gets life for killing boyfriend, daughter

Fatal house fire was set to cover up man's death

October 03, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 42-year-old registered nurse was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole yesterday after she pleaded guilty to killing her boyfriend and trying to cover up the murder by setting a fire that killed her handicapped 3-year-old daughter.

Elva E. Reid pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, admitting that she beat George W. Koval Jr. to death, left his body in the furnace room of her Turners Station townhouse and set the house on fire three weeks later, after neighbors complained about odors.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Alexander Wright Jr. sentenced Reid as part of a binding plea agreement reached by prosecutors and Reid's lawyer as her trial was to begin yesterday.

In exchange, prosecutors agreed to withdraw plans to seek the death penalty.

Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Dever said firefighters called to Reid's home in the 100 block of Willow Court on Oct. 11, 1999, found both entrances blocked, two piles of clothes burning in the kitchen and another pile in flames in the living room.

`She was not moving'

A firefighter searching the second floor found the body of Reid's daughter, Venice Reid, under a pile of clothes on a bed in a rear bedroom, Dever said.

"She was not moving. She was a rag doll in his arms," Dever told Wright yesterday.

Reid and her other child, Michael Reid, 7, were rescued from second-floor bedrooms and were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they were revived, Dever said.

Firefighters found Koval's body in the furnace room off the kitchen, she said.

Autopsies revealed that Venice Reid died of smoke inhalation and Koval, 62, died of blunt force trauma.

Reported missing

Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry said that Koval and Reid had worked together as nurses at Maryland General Hospital and had been seeing each other for about a year before the slaying.

Dever said that Koval's roommate reported him missing about three weeks before the fire.

Reid's neighbors also had repeatedly complained about odors, flies and maggots at her house in the weeks before the fire.

The night before the fire, one neighbor told Reid that she was planning to report the problems to their landlord the next day, Dever said.

`Pain and suffering'

Reid's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Donald Zaremba, portrayed the fire as a suicide attempt by a desperate woman. "She was dealt in this life a set of circumstances of pain and suffering that is almost unimaginable," he said.

Zaremba said that Reid was trying to cope with the problems associated with raising Venice Reid, who had to undergo nine surgical procedures and was brain-damaged from viral meningitis she contracted as an infant.

Reid also had been battling clinical depression, cocaine abuse and alcoholism, Zaremba said, and had been physically and sexually abused.

Reid declined to comment in court yesterday, but relatives said after the hearing that her depression and drug addiction were major factors in the killings.

"She was a good person, but the drug use just took its toll on her," said a sister, who asked that her name not be used.

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