Police suspect accomplice aided two women's escape from hospital

September 06, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

An accomplice might have helped two women - one of them facing child-abduction charges - escape from a state psychiatric hospital in Catonsville on Saturday, police said yesterday.

One of the women, Lisa L. Gabbert, 25, told police in Springdale, Ark., that a friend of Maria L. Baughman helped them escape about 3 a.m. Saturday. Gabbert turned herself in to Springdale authorities Tuesday.

"The information she has given us is that somebody had removed bars from the window to help them get out of the window," said Sgt. Rick Mayes of the Springdale Police Department. "She would not say who it was that helped her escape."

Baughman has not been found and is believed to be hitching rides with truckers, Mayes said. She is the focus of a nationwide search.

Baughman, 49, whose last known address was in Abingdon in Harford County, is accused of using deception and forgery in 1997 to persuade a Baltimore Circuit Court judge to give her custody of someone else's child.

She was arrested in May with the child but escaped with Gabbert on Saturday. The two women traveled to Arkansas together but separated shortly before Gabbert surrendered.

Harford County Detective Cpl. Michael Crabbs, who is leading the search for Baughman, said officials are investigating Gabbert's story of an accomplice. He said he doubts the accomplice is the man who gave the two women a ride from the hospital to a convenience store in Havre de Grace on Sunday morning.

That man, who has not been identified, called police Monday after he saw a news report of the escape and said he had inadvertently aided the two women. "His role was described to me as being strictly after the fact," Crabbs said.

Dr. David Helsel, clinical director for Spring Grove Hospital Center, said the women escaped after a hole was cut in a metal mesh security screen in a first-floor room.

Helsel said hospital officials initially thought the women had used a piece of metal, which was taken from a telephone booth and found near the screen, to cut the hole.

But Helsel said yesterday that it would be "much, much easier" for the hole to have been cut from the outside.

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