Fugitive in sex offense captured

FBI agents find ex-teacher working at Delaware hotel

January 16, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A former Howard County schoolteacher who eluded capture for 10 months after he failed to report to jail for a conviction stemming from an offense involving a 15-year- old boy was arrested yesterday afternoon at a Rehoboth Beach, Del., hotel, authorities said.

Members of the Baltimore-based FBI fugitive task force found Klaude Krannebitter, 38, working behind the counter at Quality Inn and Suites on Coastal Highway about 1:30 p.m., authorities said. He was apparently living and working there - and using his own name, said Sgt. Bryan K. Waser of the Howard County Sheriff's Office, which also has been tracking Krannebitter.

Investigators believe he has been at the beach resort since June, said Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr., a spokesman for the FBI's Baltimore field office.

"He was extremely surprised to see our people show up today," Gulotta said.

Krannebitter, who resigned from his job at Glenwood Middle School in 1999 after he was accused of paying a 15-year-old Baltimore boy to perform sex acts, was being held last night at the Delaware State Police barracks in Lewes, said a state police official.

Yesterday's capture brings to an end an unusual - and extended - run from authorities that started when the Baltimore County man failed to report for a six-month term at the Howard County Detention Center on March 7 and gained prominence when Krannebitter, a fixture on the local theater scene, was fired a few months later from a role in a Maryland Arts Festival production after his fugitive status was publicized.

His decision to flee instead of serving his sentence for a conviction of contributing to the delinquency of a minor baffled his friends and family and frustrated Howard County sheriff's deputies, who placed him at the top of their most-wanted list. Although the sentence was imposed March 7, 2000, Howard Judge Lenore R. Gelfman had deferred the reporting date for a year.

Krannebitter also faces a probation violation in Baltimore County, where he received a suspended sentence for a third-degree sex offense conviction involving the 15-year-old boy.

Both the Howard and Baltimore County convictions arose from a traffic stop in Howard County in March 1999. The teen-ager was in the car at the time of the stop; he told police that he had known Krannebitter for about six months and that Krannebitter had paid him for sexual contact, authorities said at the time.

Krannebitter also failed to appear in May for a hearing in Baltimore City after he was charged in January last year with driving while intoxicated, according to court records.

Waser said authorities tracked Krannebitter for months, following his automated teller machine transactions.

They tracked him as far north as Maine, but also received tips that he was in Maryland, Waser said.

The lead that brought FBI task force members to Rehoboth Beach apparently came after an acquaintance saw Krannebitter's picture in a beach publication, Waser said.

The Rev. David Albert Farmer of Wilmington, who met Krannebitter at University Baptist Church in Baltimore several years ago and spoke on his behalf at a Howard County court hearing two years ago, said he called the FBI after friends told him about the picture.

"This is much better for him in the long run," Farmer said after learning of Krannebitter's arrest from a reporter.

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