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News from around the Baltimore region

August 25, 2005

BALTIMORE

City sends apologies for mistaken mailing

Baltimore's top housing official mailed an apology yesterday to city residents who mistakenly received notices last week labeling them landlords and threatening penalties for failing to register their real estate as rental property.

The letter from Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano was sent to nearly 3,800 homeowners who were included in a batch of 17,000 registration notices, part of an effort to improve compliance with lead-poisoning laws for rental properties.

Landlords must register their properties with the city, for $30 a year, to ensure that housing officials have contact information in case problems arise with their rental units. And, for the first time, registration also requires landlords to include documents proving that their properties are lead-safe.

In addition to the nearly 19,000 renewal notices sent annually to landlords, the city this year mailed 17,000 notices to first-time landlords after housing officials conducted a more extensive review of state property records. Some of the notices, however, went to owner-occupied residences -- most to condominium complexes listed incorrectly with Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation as being occupied by tenants.

The letter encouraged people to call the department at 410-767-8250 to correct records and to call 311 to be removed from the city's list.

"To the thousands of people, mostly condo owners, who received our letter in error, I sincerely apologize for any confusion or inconvenience it may have caused," Graziano's letter says.

-- Doug Donovan

BALTIMORE

Services are being held today for soldier killed in Iraq

Services for Army Spc. Toccara R. Green, the first female soldier from Maryland to die in the Iraq war, are being held today at New Psalmist Baptist Church, 4501 Old Frederick Road in Baltimore.

A family hour will begin at 11 a.m., with funeral services at noon. Interment will take place at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery.

Green, a 23-year-old Rosedale resident, was killed Aug. 14 when an explosive detonated near her convoy in Asad. She was serving with the 57th Transportation Company, 548th Corps Support Battalion from Fort Drum, N.Y.

BALTIMORE

Judge orders `hung jury' to continue deliberating

A Baltimore Circuit judge ordered jurors to continue deliberating yesterday after they sent a note saying they did not believe they would be able to reach a verdict in the case against two men accused of killing three children last year in Northwest Baltimore.

Jurors in the trial of Policarpio Espinoza and Adan Canela sent Circuit Judge Thomas Ward a note that read: "Dear Judge Ward. We believe we are a hung jury. What are we to do?"

Espinoza, 23, and Canela, 18, are on trial in the May 27, 2004, deaths of their three relatives -- Lucero Espinoza, 8, her brother, Ricardo Espinoza, 9, and their male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10.

Ward received the jury's note about 11 a.m. and then read the jurors an Allen charge, a pre- written statement that urges the jurors to do their best to reach a unanimous decision.

"Do not hesitate to re-examine your own views," the statement says in part. "But do not surrender your honest belief."

Ward then told the jurors to continue their deliberations. The jurors had sent Ward a note Tuesday assuring him that they were working hard. "Please note that each juror is contributing wholeheartedly in this deliberation process with much effort," the note said. A day earlier, Ward had scolded them for using headphones, doing work and sitting away from the table.

The judge can keep the jury in deliberations for as long as he chooses. Ward has given no indication of his plans. One female juror requested Friday morning off to attend a relative's funeral, but Ward has not said whether he will grant the request.

-- Julie Bykowicz

BALTIMORE COUNTY

Police seeking man in rape of woman from Timonium

Baltimore County police distributed a composite sketch yesterday of a man who raped a Timonium woman this week after forcing his way inside her apartment.

The victim told police that she had parked her car about 10:30 p.m. Sunday and was walking toward her apartment on Chetwood Circle when a man walked passed her, then turned around and followed her. When she walked to her apartment door, he grabbed her and forced her inside, she told police.

The woman was attacked, robbed and raped over a period of several hours, police said. When she told the rapist she had to go to work at 4 a.m., he let her leave and the two went in separate directions, police said. She then called a family member who alerted authorities. She was treated for injuries at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, police said.

Police said the attacker was described as black, about 30 years old and 6 feet tall, with a large, muscular build. He is bald, has a tattoo on his left upper arm of a red heart with a name written in black, a scar on his right eyebrow and a mole on the left side of his neck, police said.

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