Missing witness who caused delay shows up, is arrested

He used to date woman accused in plot to kill

May 08, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The trial of a college professor on attempted murder conspiracy charges already had been postponed because the main prosecution witness was missing. But the witness showed up at the Carroll County Courthouse annex yesterday - the original trial date - and immediately was arrested.

Richard Wayne Richardson, 35, who is from the Westminster area, was being held without bail yesterday at Carroll County Detention Center.

He has agreed to testify against Constance Lee Etzler, 45, of Finksburg on charges of conspiracy and solicitation to murder her former husband in a custody dispute. She is accused of plotting with former boyfriend Richardson between September 1999 and April 2001 to place four gasoline cans under a cabin in Clearville, Pa., expecting that it would ignite when William Etzler smoked, according to charging documents. William Etzler never visited the cabin.

The trial has been rescheduled to Sept. 9. Constance Etzler is an associate professor of reading and English as a second language at Montgomery College.

The trial was postponed Friday over the objections of defense attorney, Leonard H. Shapiro, when Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. found good cause to grant the motion by Carroll Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore.

"The co-defendant and co-conspirator - the state's witness - has gone missing," Gilmore said later.

The prosecutor said she asked that Richardson be held without bail Feb. 26, but after a hearing, he was placed on home detention and freed on $25,000 unsecured bail by Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway. The home-detention service reported March 23 that he had absconded, according to the court file, and a warrant was issued.

Richardson was serving a six-month sentence in April 2001 for the unauthorized use of Etzler's car when he contacted authorities and said he had been asked to commit murder. He was charged with one count of conspiracy with Constance Etzler and, as a cooperating co-defendant, is to testify against her under a plea agreement, said his attorney, Senior Public Defender Judson K. Larrimore.

"It's my understanding that he came to court for the Constance Etzler case and was arrested by authorities," he said.

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