Howard Week

January 12, 2003

Poisoned teen dies; charges against friend are upgraded

Benjamin Edward Vassiliev, the 17-year-old Centennial High senior poisoned at a friend's home Jan. 3, died Wednesday, said Howard County police and a spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Police upgraded criminal charges against classmate Ryan Thomas Furlough, 18, of Ellicott City to first-degree murder, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

District Judge Neil Edward Axel ordered Tuesday that Furlough receive a psychological evaluation. But the judge said Wednesday that he had rejected a request by Furlough's attorney to send him to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for evaluation.

Furlough has been confined at the county detention center in Jessup since his arrest Jan. 5.

Robey seeks 0.5% increase in real estate transfer tax

After meeting with local Realtors on Monday, Howard County Executive James N. Robey formally proposed raising $215 million for school construction by asking state legislators to increase the real estate transfer tax.

"After looking at a number of alternatives, I have found the transfer tax to be the only mechanism that affords us a direct connection with the source of school enrollment increases," Robey said in a statement after the meeting.

A school board study found that more than half of new Howard students result from sales of existing homes rather than new ones. Rick LaRocca, president of the Howard County Association of Realtors, said after the meeting with Robey that his group would fight the increase: "We don't have a choice but to oppose it - it's about affordable housing and closing costs."

Deputy planning chief to lead agency during search

Marsha S. McLaughlin, who for nearly 12 years has been deputy director of Howard County's planning department, will step into the top job Friday, at least temporarily, as officials continue their national search for Joseph W. Rutter Jr.'s successor.

McLaughlin takes the reins at a time of change for Howard County, which has been defined by fast growth for more than 30 years but is slowing as raw land runs out, prompting increasing complaints from residents about new homes being squeezed into small spaces.

Victims of N.C. plane crash include 2 Howard men

They were two men on business trips, both fathers of young children, both people whose warmth and energy drew the notice of their communities. The two Howard County men - Paul Stidham and Mark Congdon - were passengers on US Airways Express Flight 5481, which crashed moments after takeoff Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., killing all 21 people on board.

At St. Augustine School in Elkridge, where Congdon's four children attend preschool and elementary grades, Principal Patricia Schratz received a call from Congdon's employer, who was trying to reach his wife, Annie.

For W.R. Grace official William Corcoran, an urgent note arrived while he was in a meeting in Washington. He learned that three Grace employees on their way to a company plant had been killed in the crash. Stidham, 46, one of his best friends at Grace's Columbia headquarters, was among them. A dedicated environmental official, Stidham leaves a wife, Dora, and two young daughters.

14-screen theater coming to the Mall in Columbia

A 14-screen, state-of-the-art movie theater will open at The Mall in Columbia this year, Rouse Co. officials announced Wednesday.

The AMC theater complex is to be built at the mall's entertainment plaza - an area at the rear of the mall with free-standing restaurants, an L.L. Bean store and a temporary ice rink that opened shortly before Christmas. The 63,000-square-foot theater, which could open by November, would become the second movie theater in the county.

The announcement occurs years later than Rouse officials would have liked. Rouse, which owns the mall, had planned for a theater several years ago when it developed the concept for the entertainment plaza, and the mall negotiated in 1999 and 2000 with General Cinema Theaters Inc. and Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. to bring theaters to the retail hub.

Dundalk teacher accused of fondling Howard girl, 13

A Dundalk High School science teacher was charged with sex offenses Wednesday, accused of videotaping himself fondling a 13-year-old Howard County girl New Year's Day.

Charles Levi Maxwell, 33, of the first block of Dodworth Court in Timonium was charged with second-, third-, and fourth-degree sex offenses, possession of child pornography and filming a child in a pornographic sex act.

Maxwell was being held last night at the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup but posted $100,000 bail. The alleged crimes occurred on the empty parking lot of a church in the 3200 block of St. Johns Lane in Ellicott City, Howard County police said.

School board opposes effort to restrict meetings

The Howard County school board narrowly voted to oppose potential legislation tightening its open-meetings restrictions Thursday night during its first open session of the year.

Members also took testimony about next school year's calendar, voted on corrections to boundary changes, and heard the superintendent's operating budget proposal.

In a vote of 3-2, with members Courtney Watson and James P. O'Donnell dissenting, the board decided to fight a proposed bill suggested by Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Howard County Democrat. The draft bill would deny board members the ability to meet under executive function, which is allowed other public bodies, but outside the scope of the Open Meetings Act.

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