Howard police captain cleared

Woman's husband, who had accused her last month of assault, refuses to testify

Baltimore & Region

November 15, 2005|By MELISSA HARRIS | MELISSA HARRIS,SUN REPORTER

A high-ranking Howard County police commander suspended last month after she was accused of trying to run over her husband with her Lexus returns to work today, now that Baltimore County prosecutors have dropped six assault charges against her.

But it was unclear last night whether Capt. Tara D. Nelson's police powers will be restored or whether she will be assigned to administrative tasks pending the outcome of an internal investigation, her attorney, Clarke F. Ahlers, said. A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment on the internal investigation.

Nelson was accused of ramming into her husband's motorcycle and trying to hit her husband, Larry Nelson, and his friend during an argument with her spouse at their Woodstock home Oct. 16.

At a preliminary hearing Thursday, Nelson's husband refused to testify, invoking his "marital privilege."

He also contradicted his prior statements to police, providing a written statement that his wife "did not attempt to hit him" with her car and that he "never feared for his life," said prosecutor Stephen Roscher, who leads Baltimore County's family violence division.

Testimony needed

Without Larry Nelson's testimony, Roscher said, prosecutors were left with nothing but what officers were told when they responded to the couple's home.

Ahlers also hired a private investigator, who interviewed four people, including an uninvolved eyewitness, who corroborated Tara Nelson's statements that she ordered her husband and his friend away from the motorcycle before she ran over it.

Ahlers provided their statements to prosecutors.

Roscher also said that the motorcycle was "marital property" - Tara Nelson could not be charged with destroying her own property.

The case had "absolutely had no chance," Roscher said.

An internal review, however, also could determine whether Nelson, 43, held her service weapon to her husband's head to get him to sign papers to sell their house about two months ago, an accusation that her husband shared with police after the outburst in mid-October.

Problems at home

The marriage had been a tumultuous one, according to Tara Nelson's statement to Baltimore County police.

Her daughter once had spotted her stepfather riding on his motorcycle with another woman. And Nelson told police that just prior to last month's incident, she had found receipts from a restaurant and hotel for two meals and room service for two while cleaning her husband's car.

The assault charges are the only blemish on Nelson's career, which took her to the top of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, which handles robberies, assaults and homicides.

During Nelson's 20-year tenure with the department, she ran the education and training and information management departments. Her resume also includes a long list of awards and community service.

Police union President Jim Fitzgerald, who worked under Nelson in the warrant-fugitive division, said that he had expected the charges to be dropped, adding that his former boss was "a very nice person."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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