Howard grand jury re-indicts man accused of explosives violations

Original case dropped after wording mixup

April 01, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A Howard County grand jury returned an 11-count indictment Friday against an Ellicott City man accused of hoarding a cache of explosives in his house - one week after prosecutors dismissed the original case against him, saying there were problems with wording in the charges.

The new indictment against Richmond C. Laney, 44, mirrors the original case in eight counts, drops a few charges and adds new charges or corrects others.

Laney is charged with nine counts of possessing destructive devices, one count of possessing explosives without a license and one count of reckless endangerment.

In particular, the new indictment, which is expected to work its way quickly through the court system, calls a piece of commercial detonating cord an "explosive" instead of a "destructive device." Prosecutors have said the original case ran into problems because the wrong statute was used for the detonating cord, one of the few items found in Laney's Fels Lane home that was not destroyed before testing, according to court officials and investigators.

The Howard County state's attorney's office has said the decision by the state fire marshal's office, working with the Army, to destroy the alleged explosives by detonation two days after they were discovered is an "issue" in the case. Laney's public defender, Louis P. Willemin, said he had been prepared to argue a motion to dismiss the first indictment based on the destroyed items and lack of testing when the case was unexpectedly, temporarily dropped last week.

But Jim Woods, a bomb technician with the fire marshal's office involved in the Laney case, said Friday that the decision to explode the items found in Laney's house followed protocol. The items were photographed and some lab samples were taken and sent for analysis; reports from those tests have been furnished to the state, he said.

Live explosives are not stored and they cannot be taken into court, he said.

The alleged explosives were initially taken to a bunker at Fort Meade and then to an open area and given enough charge to "virtually vaporize" them, Woods said.

Laney, a former Republican candidate for sheriff, was initially charged in July after a property manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allegedly found a cache of explosives during a foreclosure visit to Laney's home. Court papers say numerous weapons, including rockets, mortars and grenades, were found in the house.

In other court action Friday, the grand jury returned an indictment against Benjamin Morgan Hawkes, 25, on two counts of first-degree murder.

Hawkes, a 1993 Centennial High graduate with a history of drug and alcohol arrests, is accused of killing his mother and a teen-age boarder at his family's Columbia home in February.

Mary Jane Hawkes, 59, and Teena Wu, 18, were found bludgeoned and stabbed to death Feb. 11 in the Hawkes family's home in the 4300 block of Wild Filly Court.

Prosecutors said Friday that they have not decided whether to seek the death penalty against Hawkes, who was taken for evaluation to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center the day after the killings.

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