Howard digest

November 16, 2005

Two school fires under investigation

Police and fire investigators are trying to determine who started two fires in a Columbia elementary school last week that forced principals to evacuate and lockdown the building.

No was injured, but the fires caused $7,000 in damage to Jeffers Hill Elementary School on Tamar Drive, said William Mould, a spokesman for the Howard County Fire and Rescue Department.

The first fire was started in an electrical storage room about 2 p.m. Friday, police said. A sprinkler kept the fire from spreading.

After pupils re-entered the school, a second fire was set in a trash can in the boys bathroom. Janitors extinguished that blaze.

"We decided to lock down the school so that we could interview everybody," Mould said. "We had a few irate parents."

Police are asking anyone with information to call 410-313-3700.

Melissa Harris

Police again target sex-offender records

Howard County police are again searching for sex offenders who have failed to register their residences with law enforcement.

Wanted as of yesterday were Karen Diane Hammond, 49, Craig Orlando Wallace, 37, and Russell Wade Cade, 47.

Police did their first sweep in July after the case of a convicted rapist accused of killing his teenage stepdaughter in Essex highlighted gaps in the statewide registry of child molesters, rapists and other sex offenders. They followed up this month, focusing on 23 of the county's new, violent or previously missing offenders.

Hammond, a registered child sex offender, has an outstanding warrant from the first check in July. Police said that she may have fled Maryland.

Police arrested Cade in August for providing incorrect address information.

Wallace, whose last address in the state's data base is on Andrew Court in Laurel, is a new offender living in Howard County, police said. He was convicted of second-degree rape, according to the state's online registry.

Police also arrested Robert Brown, 61, yesterday for failing to register for the second time. Police found Brown, a child sex offender, in the 5700 block of Railroad Ave. in Elkridge.

Police are asking anyone with information on the remaining suspects to call police at 410-313-2929.

City officer rescues Columbia teenager

An off-duty Baltimore police officer rescued a Columbia teenager as six youths robbed and beat him over the weekend, Howard County police said.

The officer was driving home from work about 1 a.m. Sunday when he spotted the fight. As he approached the teenagers, who are between the ages of 15 and 17, they ran. He caught one and Howard County officers caught four of the five other suspects. All five were charged with robbery and assault.

Police said that Donald Lynam was walking on Cedar Lane after buying food and drinks at the Trellis Center when the six teenagers approached him. One asked Lynam if he wanted to purchase drugs. When he declined and continued walking, police said that the suspects assaulted him, stealing his wallet containing $78, a cell phone and cigarettes.

Police did not release the suspects' names because they are juveniles.

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