Killer of two children in coma

Spicknall found unconscious at high-security lockup

January 12, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Richard W. Spicknall II, a Howard County man serving life in prison for the murders of his two children, was in a coma at a Laurel hospital last night after being found unconscious in his cell at a maximum-security prison in Jessup, authorities said.

The 29-year-old inmate was on life-support yesterday at Laurel Regional Hospital, as investigators from the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services tried to determine the cause of his condition, department spokesman Leonard A. Sipes Jr. said.

No signs of physical trauma were apparent on Spicknall when he was found unconscious on his bed by a correctional officer at the Maryland House of Correction Annex about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sipes said.

Spicknall did not share a cell and was housed in a protective-custody wing at the prison, Sipes said.

Asked if investigators were looking into whether Spicknall had suffered a drug overdose, either accidental or self-inflicted, Sipes said only that all possibilities were being investigated.

He said he could not discuss Spicknall's medical history in prison.

Spicknall was sentenced to two life terms in November 2000 after being convicted of fatally shooting his 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in their car seats during a trip to the Eastern Shore in September 1999.

Defense lawyers said during court proceedings that Spicknall was suicidal over the breakup of his marriage and the loss of his job as a restaurant manager when he killed his children.

They said he suffered from depression.

Initially, the lawyers said Spicknall's mental condition prevented him from being criminally responsible for the murders of his children.

Insanity defense dropped

But before his trial, Spicknall dropped his insanity defense as part of a plea agreement, in which prosecutors agreed not seek the death penalty against him. He is serving his life sentences with no chance of parole.

On Sept. 8, 1999, the night the children were shot, police and prosecutors say, Spicknall placed them in child safety seats in his mother's Jeep -- which he borrowed because it had air conditioning -- and drove on U.S. 50 about halfway to Ocean City before he stopped on the Talbot County side of the Choptank River, near the state fishing pier.

Investigators say Spicknall then loaded a 9 mm handgun and shot the children through the driver's-side window.

The children were found several hours later by workers at a nearby construction site.

The boy, Richard Wayne Spicknall III, was dead when police arrived.

His sister, Destiny Array Spicknall, died two days later at a Baltimore trauma center.

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