State Digest

STATE DIGEST

March 03, 2006

$30 million awarded in case against boy's killer

A Frederick County judge has awarded more than $30 million in damages to the family of a 9-year-old boy who was killed by a sex offender who is serving two life sentences for the crime.

The civil judgment entered Tuesday against Elmer Spencer Jr. is largely symbolic because he is thought to have little money. But lawyers for victim Christopher Ausherman's parents say the award could help their case against the state of Maryland, which is scheduled to go to trial in June.

"I think yesterday was important because it sent a message as to the degree of harm and damage that was caused by this horrible tragedy," said Paul V. Jorgensen, a lawyer for the parents.

Circuit Judge Theresa M. Adams awarded the plaintiffs $30 million in punitive damages and $20 million in compensatory damages, but the compensatory amount was reduced to $1.48 million under limits set by state law. Spencer, 50, had no attorney for the proceeding.

Michael O. Doyle, an assistant attorney general representing the state, said yesterday that the decision concerned only Spencer's liability and that any state liability will be determined at the trial. Doyle said at an October hearing that the state's liability cannot exceed $200,000.

The plaintiffs claim that the state wrongly freed Spencer from prison five days before Christopher was sexually assaulted and fatally bludgeoned in Frederick on Nov. 19, 2000. Spencer was sentenced to two life terms plus 20 years.

Spencer, a mentally retarded man with a record of attacking women and children, had been freed after serving about 3 1/2 years of a 10-year term for assault. Prison officials say he was freed under a mandatory-release program that included good-behavior credits earned during previous incarcerations dating to the late 1970s.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Garrett County: Deep Creek Lake

New rules on parking, bear-proofing detailed

Families renting vacation homes at Deep Creek Lake this summer might find some changes at their mountain getaways.

Bear-proof trash containers, off-street parking and public health inspections are among the licensing requirements approved Tuesday by the Garrett County commissioners to address complaints about litter, road congestion and other problems in the Western Maryland resort area.

The rules add details to an ordinance adopted 2 1/2 years ago that restricts the size of the vacation rentals that have multiplied around the lake in recent years. Rental houses built after Aug. 5, 2003, are limited to eight bedrooms, and overnight occupancy is limited to 20 people. No group may stay longer than two weeks.

The bear-proofing rules require that garbage be placed in enclosed, latched containers within four-walled, roofed enclosures with latched doors. Rental units established after August 2003 must offer at least one on-premises parking space per bedroom to alleviate road congestion and trespassing. All vacation rentals must be inspected by the county Health Department and submit to water sampling.

The ordinance provides for phased-in registration and licensing over the next 12 months.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Frederick County: Fatal accident

Hagerstown teen held in hit-and-run

A Hagerstown teenager has been charged with multiple traffic offenses stemming from a fatal hit-and-run in October, state police said yesterday.

The unidentified youth, who was 16 at the time of the crash, was arrested Tuesday at his home and is being detained pending a March 23 hearing on whether he should be tried as an adult, Sgt. Thornnie Rouse said.

The boy was the unlicensed driver of a red Honda Civic that struck a Mitsubishi Montero sport utility vehicle from behind on northbound Interstate 270 near Frederick on Oct. 1, police said. The SUV overturned, killing passenger Urai Riddle, 42, of Frederick and injuring three other occupants. The Honda's driver reportedly stopped briefly after the crash and then continued north on I-270, police said.

The teen is charged with four counts of hit-and-run, one involving a death; two counts of failure to render aid; and one count each of failure to give required information, negligent driving, failure to drive within a single lane and driving without a license.

Associated Press

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