The mother of a woman who was raped and murdered in Denver filed a negligence suit against Maryland yesterday for sending the killer to a drug treatment program there without notifying Colorado authorities.
The Maryland man, Donta Paige, was thrown out of the treatment program for bad behavior on Feb. 24, 1999. He walked down the street, broke into a house where a 24-year-old graduate student lived, and raped and stabbed her.
Paige was recently convicted of the murder. A Denver jury is deliberating this week whether he should receive the death penalty or life without parole.
The suit, filed in Denver District Court, contends that Maryland violated federal law by sending Paige to Denver without notifying Colorado officials, who, the suit claims, would never have allowed the convicted felon into the state.
The suit also says that Maryland should have known the treatment program did not admit people who had been convicted of violent offenses, as Paige had.
The murder of Peyton Tuthill, who had moved to Denver to obtain a graduate degree at the Colorado Institute of Art and Design, led to the passage of a Colorado law requiring such programs to notify local authorities before accepting out-of-state offenders.
The case also prompted Gov. Parris N. Glendening to write a letter to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens on July 9, 1999, expressing his concern about several cases in which Maryland offenders had been sent to drug treatment in the state and were later charged with crimes.
"Like you, I was alarmed that these offenders were sent to the Stout Street facility without notification to Colorado law enforcement officials of their arrival within your state," Glendening wrote.
He said that the orders by the trial judges in the cases did not trigger "operation of the interstate compact" that requires the state to notify Colorado. He outlined several actions he took to ensure that similar incidents don't occur in the future.
"It is such a crystal-clear violation of the statute," said attorney Peter C. Grenier of the Washington firm of Bode and Grenier, representing the mother of the victim. "It is outrageous."
Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals said two years ago that the case was a "failure" on Maryland's part but that corrections officials were responsible for making the notification. Corrections officials said Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Joseph S. Casula released Paige without notifying the parole and probation agency.
Two former state officials who were responsible for administering the interstate compact have been named in the suit, as well as state parole and probation officers assigned to criminal cases. A spokesman for Glendening said the state could not comment on pending litigation and referred to the letter the governor had sent to Owens.
Paige was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery and burglary at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown in 1998 when Casula decided to free him to attend the Denver treatment program. Paige was placed on three years' supervised probation and released to his mother, who put him on a bus to Denver.
Four days after he got to Denver, Paige dropped out of the treatment center but returned, asking to be readmitted.
Grenier, the attorney representing Patricia Tuthill, has several suits pending against local and state governments.
He won a case in 1999 in which the District of Columbia police department was ordered to pay $98 million in damages to a woman whose son was killed while working as a police informant.
The suit does not specify how much money Patricia Tuthill is seeking.