Judge admits error in release

Balto. County police hunt for Monkton man accused of assaulting ex-girlfriend

Four schools remain `on alert'

Bail was lowered in June for a stabbing charge

September 29, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin, Lisa Goldberg and Laura Barnhardt | Jennifer McMenamin, Lisa Goldberg and Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore judge said yesterday he apparently erred in June when he cleared the way for the release of a Monkton man who was charged with stabbing his former girlfriend - and now is being sought for allegedly threatening her with a shotgun.

"I listened to the evidence, and I thought what I did was right," Baltimore City Circuit Judge Thomas J.S. Waxter Jr. said yesterday of his decision to lower bail for Larry Duane Thomas from $100,000 to $10,000 and order the man into home detention. "You try to figure out what's right. You make mistakes. That's part of it. This was a mistake."

Police continued searching yesterday for Thomas, 41, of Monkton, who is charged in a warrant with attempted first-degree murder, burglary and assault after allegedly threatening his ex-girlfriend on Saturday - once with a knife and once with a shotgun. Victims' advocates, meanwhile, worked to relocate the woman, and administrators at four nearby schools kept children inside for second day.

Baltimore County police dispatched extra patrols yesterday in the area of Gunpowder State Park and detectives worked to track Thomas through acquaintances, relatives and friends, said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman.

Police tried to arrest Thomas Saturday at his home in the 17100 block of Big Falls Road, but he fled into the woods with a shotgun before officers could surround the house. Police later found the shotgun near the house, police said.

City prosecutors expressed frustration yesterday that Thomas would have been in a position to allegedly threaten his ex-girlfriend, Crystal L. Jones, 23.

The Monkton man's record includes guilty findings for battery, assault, theft, drug possession and disturbing the peace, according to court documents. At least three times since the mid-1980s, he received probation before judgment, once in a battery case, according to the documents. Another battery charge from 1984 was placed on an inactive docket.

He faces felony theft charges in Baltimore County, assault charges in the city and allegations that he violated his probation in an earlier drug case, court records show.

In April, Thomas allegedly attacked and threatened to kill Jones while the two were driving on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore. When Jones attempted to jump from the pickup truck, Thomas punched her in the eye and lip, and stabbed her in the shoulder blade with a knife, according to court documents.

Jones was dragged 30 feet before freeing herself. She was treated for a small but deep puncture wound to her back, court records show.

Charged with assault, Thomas was initially held in lieu of $500,000 bail. That was reduced to $100,000 in Baltimore District Court.

When Thomas requested a bail review, prosecutor Gregg Solomon argued against a lower amount at a June 23 hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court. Solomon's supervisor said that the prosecutor "vociferously argued" that the bail should not be reduced below $100,000.

"If we thought any other bail was appropriate, we would have agreed with it," said Julie Drake, chief of the office's felony family violence division. "We didn't because we thought this person was dangerous."

Waxter said he had hoped that the combination of bail and home detention would have been enough to protect Thomas' ex-girlfriend.

"In hindsight, he probably shouldn't be at large," the judge said. "Yes, we live in a city of great violence. You never know. That's what bail hearings are for. But there are, every day in this city, fights between men and men, and women and men, and just terrible violence. You can't lock up everybody all the time."

The hunt for Thomas began early Saturday in the White Hall area.

Jones called police about 3:45 a.m. from a home in the 19600 block of Burke Road, saying that Thomas had threatened her there with a knife.

Thomas - who was ordered to stay away from Jones as a condition of his bond - returned about 7:30 a.m., kicked in a rear kitchen door and pointed a single-shot 12-gauge shotgun at Jones, according to court documents.

When Jones' mother, Shirley Ann Wilson, 41, attempted to intervene, Thomas hit Jones in the face with the butt of the shotgun, according to court documents. As Jones ran for the front door and Thomas aimed the gun at her, Wilson grabbed the barrel and struggled with him, according to court documents.

The gun went off, missing Wilson's stomach by "a few inches," court documents show. She sustained a bruise and burns from the shotgun blast.

Once outside, Jones and Wilson flagged down a passing motorist, police said.

With Thomas still on the loose yesterday, Hereford Middle School and Prettyboy, Seventh District and Fifth District elementary schools remained on "alert" status yesterday, meaning pupils stayed inside for recess and gym classes and faculty closely monitored visitors.

A waitress at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Hereford said the search was "all people are talking about."

"People are wondering if he's still around," Marge Weinbrener said. "People are being more cautious than they usually are around here - keeping things locked and just being more aware."

Sun staff writer Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.

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