A soft-spoken Arthur E. Pascoe, bent over and appearing frail, pleaded guilty yesterday to fatally shooting a 78-year-old woman who was his neighbor at a Cockeysville apartment building for the elderly.
A prosecutor described Pascoe, 79, as so dangerous and delusional that he should be committed to a high-security mental institution to prevent him from repeating the attack, which occurred in May and left another neighbor injured.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. Norris Byrnes agreed.
"It's a tragedy," Byrnes told the courtroom, where Pascoe's daughter and the daughter of the surviving victim sat weeping. "Mr. Pascoe remains a danger to others. Wherever the [Department of Health and Mental Hygiene] commits him, it should be a facility that has the highest security."
Pascoe was found by a state psychiatric team to have a mental disorder that left him delusional and "not criminally responsible" when he killed June V. Maxwell, 78, by shooting her in the face with his .38-caliber revolver, said Assistant State's Attorney William Bickel.
He pistol-whipped another neighbor at the Warren Place Apartments, Carolyn D. Lyons, 72, who had rejected his romantic advances, the prosecutor said.
Byrnes accepted the guilty plea to first-degree murder and said Pascoe will be committed to a state mental institution indefinitely. Pascoe, who was represented by a public defender, appeared coherent yesterday.
"Do you know why you're here?" asked Byrnes.
"I shot a woman," Pascoe answered softly.
Maxwell and Lyons called police the afternoon of May 2 after Pascoe ordered Maxwell not to leave her apartment, according to charging documents.
Pascoe apologized to the officers and promised not to bother the women. As the officers were leaving, they received a call that shots had been fired, Bickel said.
Pascoe tried to shoot Lyons, but the gun misfired. Minutes later, he shot Maxwell at close range when she answered the door to her apartment, according to charging documents.
Maxwell's family did not appear in court, but sent a letter to the judge describing Maxwell as a religious woman who was mother and grandmother to a large and loving family.
After the hearing, Lyons' daughter, Lyn Horan, spoke privately to Pascoe's family in the courtroom. "They're suffering, too," she said.
"We harbor no resentment to Arthur Pascoe's family," Horan said, but added: "We are very concerned about my mother's safety. It was a horrific murder. We want to see him safely put away."