FREDERICK - In 1982, a state psychologist diagnosed Elmer Spencer Jr. as a pedophile and warned that without treatment he was likely to continue attacking children.
It is not clear whether the 44-year-old homeless man accused of killing a 9-year-old boy here Sunday night received any of that recommended treatment - even though he spent 17 of the 18 years since then in state prisons.
After the 1982 court-ordered evaluation, Spencer spent 11 months at a state facility that offers specialized treatment. Earlier, after a conviction for assaulting a woman, Spencer was at the same facility for three months in 1978 and is said to have refused treatment.
The rest of his time in state care has been spent in prisons, where counseling is limited and not aimed at rehabilitating those with psychiatric disorders.
Yesterday, Spencer was ordered held without bail during a brief hearing at Frederick County District Court, where he faced first-degree murder charges in the killing of Christopher Lee Ausherman, whose naked body was found in a baseball dugout.
Police said the child had been beaten and strangled and a preliminary autopsy showed evidence of a sexual assault.
Frederick prosecutors said they are considering seeking the death penalty for Spencer, who had been released from the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown five days before Christopher was killed less than a half-mile from his home.
Frederick County State's Attorney Scott G. Rolle said yesterday he is incensed over Spencer's early release from prison, after serving just under four years of a 10-year sentence imposed in 1997 for an assault on a Frederick woman.
"For somebody to get 10 years in jail and be out in 3 1/2 years is outrageous," Rolle said.
State law requires a registry of convicted sex offenders, including their address, place of work and a photograph.
But Spencer was not on the list, Frederick officials say, because the sexual offenses of which he had been convicted occurred before the creation of the registry about three years ago.
The court-ordered psychological evaluation that found Spencer to be a pedophile in need of treatment came as a result of his 1982 conviction for tying a shoestring around a boy's neck and raping him at a Mount Airy shopping center.
In the evaluation, state psychologist Phyllis A. Burke concluded that Spencer is mildly retarded with an IQ of 63 - and a danger to society.
"It is my opinion that he will probably never be able to function on his own in the community and he will need continued supervision in a very structured setting," she concluded in a sentencing report.
The psychologist recommended Spencer receive treatment at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, a facility for criminals in need of psychiatric care, where he then spent 11 months. It is not clear whether he received treatment during that time.
But during his 1978 stay at the same facility, he refused treatment and was sent to a state prison after three months, a state prison source who declined to be identified said yesterday.
Even with treatment, Dr. Jack Vaeth, a staff psychiatrist at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, said, little can be done to help pedophiles, other than to send them to prison for long periods.
"We don't have magic cures," he said. "Pedophilia is one of the most difficult conditions to treat. They have a very high recidivism rate."
Christopher's death was fast-growing Frederick's fifth homicide this year, after three years of no murders, and it has shaken many residents.
Yesterday, an impromptu shrine sprang up at McCurdy Field near the third-base dugout where his battered body was discovered. Flower bouquets were stuck in the chain-link fence, and stuffed animals and toys lined up neatly on the ground below.
"We don't have bars on our windows - yet," said Melissa Noble, manager of a computer services company downtown.
She said she had walked through the cream-colored public housing apartment complex where the boy lived and had never worried about her safety. "There are always a lot of kids over there riding their bikes," Noble said. "It's not an isolated area. That somebody could take a little kid there and kill him, it's scary."
Christopher was apparently lured from his neighborhood Sunday afternoon. At 6 p.m. that evening, he was filmed with Spencer on a convenience store surveillance tape picking out Pokemon cards, according to court documents.
His body was found Monday morning. Spencer was arrested at a homeless shelter that night.
During his videotaped hearing yesterday, Spencer sat almost motionless through the five-minute proceeding, responding with a barely audible "yes" when District Judge W. Milnor Roberts asked the defendant if he could hear what was being said in the courtroom.
Spencer has a long history with the state criminal justice system.