Carroll family is reeling after a second fatal blow

Man's motorcycle death follows mother's murder

November 19, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

As the jury inside deliberated the fate of his mother's accused killer, Bob Nicholls stood in the October sunshine with his family and friends. He flicked his cigarettes constantly, and then he hopped on his motorcycle for a spin around the block to release some of the tension.

When a guilty verdict was returned, he hugged his father and sister tight, and they cried. They seemed to be a step closer to rebuilding their lives.

But on Sunday, two weeks shy of his 33rd birthday, Robert Vernon Nicholls Jr. died in a motorcycle accident.

"We'd just started healing," his only sister, Kristina Costley, said yesterday. "But to go through another horrible thing, another senseless death within a year and a half, I'm at a loss for words as to what my emotions are."

Costley and her younger brother were the only children of Robert Nicholls Sr. and his wife, Helga, a Westminster woman known for her frequent calls to Baltimore talk-radio programs. Helga Nicholls was stabbed to death at her home in August last year by her former son-in-law, Leon A. Costley Jr., who awaits sentencing. Prosecutors said that Leon Costley blamed Nicholls for the breakup of his marriage and the estrangement of his two children.

Robert Nicholls Jr. was a computer technician whose hobbies included working on his motorcycle and playing the drums, said his wife, Tammy.

His mother's death hit him hard, she said, adding, "She was the one in the family that kept everyone communicating."

About a year after the killing, members of the Nicholls family and their friends endured a four-day trial and four hours of deliberations before a Carroll County jury found Leon Costley guilty of first- and second-degree murder.

"He was relieved that the family was going to have closure," Tammy Nicholls said of her husband yesterday as she choked back tears. "His dad was making a good effort to be closer to him, and it was making [Robert Nicholls Jr.] very happy his children were getting to see his dad."

"It's a senseless death because it wasn't like he was sick," Kristina Costley said. "It's almost on the same level as my mother."

Nicholls was killed Sunday afternoon, police said, after his 1999 Suzuki motorcycle crashed into the driver's side door of a 2002 Honda Accord. Nicholls was one of three motorcyclists - including his brother-in-law and a friend from high school - riding westbound on Route 31 when the driver of the Accord attempted to make a U-turn. The car's driver told state police that he did not see Nicholls behind him when he pulled over to the shoulder to attempt the turn.

The accident occurred in the Englars Mill subdivision near the intersection of Route 31 and Sams Creek Road.

Nicholls was treated at the scene by New Windsor medical personnel before being taken to Carroll Hospital Center, where he died of internal injuries less than an hour after the collision.

Tammy Nicholls, 31, traveled from the couple's Frederick home with their three daughters - 4-year-old twins and a 2-year-old. Robert Nicholls Sr. also joined his family at his son's hospital bed.

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