Howard man arrested in vandalism of school

February 08, 2003|By Tricia Bishop and Jason Song | Tricia Bishop and Jason Song,SUN STAFF

An Ellicott City man has been arrested and accused of using a bulldozer to damage an elementary school under construction late last year, Howard County police said yesterday .

James A. McCormack, 20, of the 8200 block of Tall Trees Court, was arrested Thursday and charged with theft, breaking and entering, trespassing and malicious destruction of property after a bulldozer was driven through Bellows Spring Elementary School in the 3100 block of Old Stockbridge Drive on Dec. 29, causing more than $100,000 in damage.

McCormack was also charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of child pornography and a fourth-degree sex offense in which he is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl.

McCormack was being held last night at the Howard County Detention Center in lieu of $10,000 bond.

Police said they had been investigating McCormack in an assault on a 16-year-old girl. When they searched McCormack's house this week, they discovered digital photos of McCormack engaged in sex with a 17-year-old girl.

While investigating the sex charges, police said they linked McCormack to the Bellows Spring vandalism.

Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said she was unsure why the elementary school was damaged. The Bellows Spring structure was more than half-completed when it was torn apart early on a Sunday. A dirt-moving machine stolen from a nearby hotel construction site was driven into one of the school's outer brick walls.

The vandal then switched to a bulldozer, driving it into one side of a building and out the other, bending the machine's exhaust pipe back into its cab, construction workers said.

School system officials said it was the worst case of vandalism they had ever seen.

"I was totally disheartened," said Sandra H. French, school board chairwoman.

The building suffered damage to three sections of classrooms. The damage will have to be paid by the contractors' insurance companies unless someone is convicted of the crime and sued in civil court.

But the likelihood of recovering the costs of repair in a civil suit is slim, and school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan could not say whether the school system would bother to litigate.

Bellows Spring is scheduled to open in late August.

Workers were ahead of schedule when the vandalism occurred, and they have vowed to do everything necessary to see that the school opens on schedule.

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