Robbery motive in killing, police say

19-year-old charged with murder in death of man in his apartment

Westminster

January 13, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A Westminster man charged with Carroll County's only confirmed homicide of 2003 targeted the slain dishwasher for robbery, police said yesterday.

Godfrey G. Miller III, 19, of the 200 block of E. Main St. was charged late Friday with first-degree murder in the death of Richard Paul Atkins, 30, who lived a block away on the same street.

Charging documents indicate that Miller confessed to assaulting Atkins with a heavy tool and to taking $10 from the victim's wallet, along with several CDs and DVDs.

Miller also was charged with several counts of assault and robbery, as well as theft and carrying a deadly weapon with the intent to injure, according to court records. While awaiting his bail review yesterday morning, Miller looked forlornly into a camera that fed his image into a Carroll County district courtroom and fidgeted constantly in his orange jumpsuit.

He remained at the Carroll County Detention Center on no bond after a bail hearing was canceled. Miller's lawyer, Carroll County public defender Judson K. Larrimore, said he first met his client yesterday morning and needed more time to consult with him. Another bail hearing will be scheduled.

The arrest came 12 days after Atkins was found Dec. 29 by a relative who had gone to check on him at his apartment in the 100 block of E. Main St. about 12:30 p.m., police said.

Atkins' supervisor at Denny's Restaurant on Route 140 and Englar Road also was concerned because Atkins - who frequently filled shifts for other employees and was willing to work overnight at the 24-hour restaurant - did not show up for his weekend shift.

Westminster police said that tips from the public sped up their investigation and led to Miller's arrest, although city police benefited from working with state police and the Carroll County state's attorney's office on the case. Westminster Police Capt. Randy Barnes said the public "cracked the case wide open."

"This is the part of community policing that is very helpful to the police department to solve crimes," Barnes said. "If you have a case with no eyewitnesses, sometimes you rely on the public coming forward to help us with cases. This is one of them."

He said it was during a community meeting Friday night that was meant to solicit ideas and calm public fears that the case started to point toward Miller. The suspect was arrested about 10:30 p.m.

According to charging documents, Miller took a polygraph test and, under interrogation by Westminster police, said he was responsible for Atkins' death.

Barnes said that Miller visited friends who lived in Jones Manor, the apartment building where Atkins lived. Barnes said that the two men were not friends.

Miller told police that on Dec. 27 he went to the basement of Atkins' building and retrieved a tool - police did not describe the object - to hit Atkins and steal his money, according to charging documents.

Miller arrived at the apartment and found Atkins seated on the floor, charging documents stated. Miller struck Atkins on the top and side of his head, removed $10 from Atkins' wallet and took six CDs and DVDs and fled the apartment. He told police that he did not know he had killed Atkins, charging documents stated.

When the police arrived at the scene, they found the victim on his back on the floor, a large pool of blood surrounding his head, charging documents showed. Westminster Police Lt. Wayne B. Mann wrote that he noticed an indentation to the back of Atkins' head consistent with "severe blunt force trauma resulting from a brutal assault." Mann also described a large pool of blood on the bed in the one-room apartment. Mann wrote in the report that Atkins' wallet was found on the bed.

Court records showed that state medical examiners determined the cause of death was the two head injuries Atkins sustained.

Barnes said yesterday the neighborhood in which the crime occurred could breathe easier now.

"It was not a random act of violence. We want the neighborhood to feel safe," said Barnes, who added that the department has increased its foot patrols since the incident. "Now we can say it was an isolated incident."

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