Teen charged in Arundel slaying case

His mother was victim's girlfriend

body was burned

March 03, 2006|By ANNIE LINSKEY | ANNIE LINSKEY,SUN REPORTER

A Millersville teenager was arrested in Salisbury yesterday and charged with killing a 50-year-old Baltimore man whose body was found burning along a road in Anne Arundel County last week, county police said.

Matthew Joseph Haarhoff, 17, of the 200 block of Nathan Way was charged Tuesday as an adult with first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Frank Fertitta, police said, and was being held without bail after an appearance last night before a court commissioner.

Police said Fertitta was killed after he argued with the teenager's mother, Cynthia Jean McKay, 49, of the same address.

McKay has been charged with being an accessory to murder in the death of Fertitta, whom police have identified as her boyfriend, according to charging documents.

Police said they obtained a warrant for Haarhoff's arrest yesterday after interviewing a witness who told them that Haarhoff confessed to shooting and stabbing the victim, moving his body and setting it on fire.

Police e-mailed Haarhoff's photo and a description of his Dodge Neon to the news media as part of a statewide manhunt for the suspect yesterday morning.

Haarhoff was arrested by Salisbury police at 1:09 p.m. at the Thrift Travel Inn on Route 13 without incident and was taken to the Anne Arundel County police station for processing, said Lt. David D. Waltemeyer Jr., a county police spokesman. Police were tipped off to his location by a caller to 911, Waltemeyer said.

The teen was arrested in a hotel room that his sister had lived in for "quite a while," said Capt. Mark Tyler of the Salisbury police. The sister was questioned but not taken into custody, Tyler said. Her name was not released yesterday.

Police were not sure yesterday why Haarhoff went to Salisbury, but his father, David Arthur James Haarhoff, listed that city as his address in divorce records filed in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in July 1999. The records also show that custody of Matthew Haarhoff was granted to the Department of Social Services at the time. He was 11 when his parents divorced.

About 3 a.m. Feb. 22, a police officer found Fertitta's body on fire on the side of the road not far from McKay's home.

Police said McKay and Fertitta argued Tuesday night and that "an individual" was called to McKay's home on the 200 block of Nathan Way, according to charging documents filed in Anne Arundel County District Court. That "individual" argued with Fertitta and "violently assaulted him" with a weapon, according to the documents.

McKay told her lawyer that she last saw Fertitta when he left for work 24 hours earlier. That account differs from police charging documents, which say she saw him 15 minutes before he was found dead.

Two days after Fertitta's body was found, police arrested McKay and charged her with accessory after first-degree murder, according to charging documents. Police say she helped clean the crime scene with bleach, though a large stain that appeared to be blood was found beneath the cleaned carpet. Her lawyer says she is innocent. McKay is being held without bail at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center.

Because of the extent of the burns on Fertitta's body, Waltemeyer said, police are waiting for the final autopsy report to confirm whether he was shot, a detail police learned after interviewing witnesses, Waltemeyer said.

The Capital newspaper of Annapolis reported Wednesday that Haarhoff had called the newspaper to complain that police were intimidating him and to deny involvement in the crime.

Waltemeyer said the killing is still being investigated. "Detectives are still trying to determine who else may have been at the home when the murder occurred or if anyone else participated in cleaning the home and disposing of the body," he said.

Stephen Freedman, Cynthia McKay's lawyer, said his client was "a mess emotionally" after hearing that her son had been charged in Fertitta's death. She has six children, authorities said.

McKay has had 19 criminal convictions, according to testimony by pretrial services at her bail hearing. Court records show that most of the convictions were for credit card fraud and theft. She was jailed after being convicted of embezzling $205,000 from a Baltimore seminary and released in July, according to court records.

Freedman said his client told him that Fertitta had gambling debts and could have been killed by someone to whom he owed money.

Freedman also said McKay was upset by yesterday's news that Baltimore County police were reviewing a Christmas 2002 fire that caused the death of her third husband, Clarence E. Downs III. "I think a lot of these things are piling on her because of these allegations," Freeman said.

Freedman said his client had nothing to do with the 2002 fire. "She said it was because her husband ... had a cigarette in his mouth and fell asleep," he said.

McKay escaped that fire, which burned the couple's Lansdowne home and was ruled accidental by Baltimore County authorities.

Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Fire Department, said, "In light of the circumstances - which include the fact that this woman has been involved in a death that involved a fire - our investigators thought it was worth taking a fresh look at the case."

She said it is too early to tell whether the original finding will be reversed and that there is no new physical evidence in that case.

"Our investigators spent a long time on that case because [her husband's] family members wanted a close look taken at it" in the immediate aftermath of the fire, she said.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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