Man on probation arrested in slaying of Frederick boy

Suspect has history of assaulting youths

November 22, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A mentally retarded man with a history of sexually assaulting children was charged yesterday with killing a 9-year-old boy in a baseball dugout in Frederick five days after he was released from prison, authorities said.

Elmer Spencer Jr., 44, was arrested Monday night by police at a homeless shelter in Frederick and charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of Christopher Lee Ausherman, who disappeared while playing in his neighborhood Sunday afternoon. The boy's body was found Monday morning.

Spencer had served less than half of a 10-year sentence for assaulting a woman when he was released Nov. 14 from the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown and placed on probation for three years, officials said.

"We are all curious about that," said Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.

State prison officials said that incarceration term is about average; a defendant rarely serves an entire sentence.

Psychiatric reports filed in various court cases show that Spencer is mentally retarded and has a propensity for violence toward children. He was imprisoned from 1981 to 1994 for raping a child in Carroll County.

Court charging documents filed yesterday say that a convenience store surveillance tape caught the suspect buying Pokemon cards for Christopher hours before a maintenance man found the boy's naked body in a third-base dugout at McCurdy Field, less than a half-mile from where he lived.

Police declined to reveal how the fourth-grader had been killed, but court documents say he was beaten in the head with a blunt object. The weapon has not been found. Police said they are awaiting results of an autopsy to determine whether the boy was sexually assaulted.

"He was a wonderful little boy," Christopher's mother, Mary Voit, 37, said yesterday, crying. "I thought he was just playing in the yard. He wouldn't go with just anybody."

Voit said she told her son not to go far.

Spencer was ordered held without bail yesterday at the Frederick County Detention Center. A bail review hearing is scheduled for today in District Court.

The slaying is the fourth this year in the Western Maryland city.

Court records show that Spencer, who has lived in Frederick, Carroll and Howard counties and had just gotten a job as a dishwasher in Mount Airy, has been arrested five times, three times on charges involving children.

Spencer's record begins in 1977, when he was convicted of battery in Carroll County and sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled in 1980.

A year later came the Carroll County child-rape conviction, which put Spencer behind bars until 1994.

In May 1995, Baltimore County police charged him with assault with intent to murder, after an 8-year-old boy told police that a man forced him to strip and then threw him into the Patapsco River off Frederick Road, near the Howard County line. Police said the suspect was arrested while carrying the boy's clothes.

Prosecutors dismissed the charges from that case at a preliminary hearing but yesterday could not explain why, saying the original file had been destroyed. Deputy Baltimore County State's Attorney Susan A. Schenning said she has requested notes on the case from archives, but those will not be available until next week.

In early 1996, Frederick police charged Spencer with a third-degree sex offense and assault of a 7-year-old girl. Those charges were dropped by prosecutors.

In May 1996, Spencer pleaded guilty to reduced assault charges after he was accused of attempting to rape a woman in Frederick. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with all but 10 years suspended.

He was released Nov. 14, after earning good-time and work credits, which reduced his time behind bars. The length of the incarceration - about 40 percent of his sentence - is not unusual, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a state prison spokesman.

Sipes said Spencer showed up Nov. 15 for his initial screening with probation officials. He was ordered to undergo routine drug and alcohol testing, as well as sex offender counseling. His next scheduled appointment was to have been today in Westminster.

The case involving Christopher's killing began at 9:10 p.m. Sunday with an anonymous call to police from the Greyhound bus station in Frederick.

Police said a man called and told an operator that he saw a young boy getting beaten up at a park in Frederick County.

Ten minutes later, police said, Christopher's mother, Voit, called to report her son missing. She said Christopher was playing in the neighborhood since late that afternoon and she thought he had gone to a friend's house.

Frederick police, with the help of the FBI and Maryland State Police, searched for hours without finding any clues to his disappearance.

A maintenance worker found the boy's body in the McCurdy Field dugout about 12 hours later, less than a half-mile from his house. Police, carrying the boy's photograph, then canvassed the area and learned that the youngster was seen with a man in two convenience stores near the ball field.

Court documents say that a surveillance camera captured Christopher and a man wearing a stocking cap and a tan jacket inside a 7-Eleven store about 6 p.m. Sunday. The documents say the tape shows the youth pointing to Pokemon cards, and the man buying them.

Police said they have identified the man in the store, as well as the man who made the anonymous call from the bus station, as Spencer.

Lt. Thomas Chase, head of criminal investigations for the Frederick Police Department, said detectives do not know how Christopher met his killer. They don't know if he wandered away from home or if he was lured from his front yard.

Voit said Christopher is survived by two brothers, Jesse, 10, and Michael, 19 months. Christopher, who attended South Frederick Elementary School, loved football and trading Pokemon cards.

"He will be missed a lot," his mother said.

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