Baltimore County Digest

BALTIMORE COUNTY DIGEST

August 30, 2006

Relative says he took gas can to accused man

The half-brother of a man accused of killing an Overlea woman and setting her apartment on fire testified yesterday that he brought the man a can of gasoline shortly before the fire was discovered.

Torrance Davis, 24, said his half-brother, Ellis Lee Hickman Jr., 34, frantically called him numerous times on the day that the mutilated body of Rakiyya Tiana States, 29, was found in her bathtub.

Hickman is charged with first-degree murder, arson, robbery and other offenses. Prosecutors said they will seek a sentence of life without parole if he is convicted.

In his opening statement yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney Stephen W. Kagay described Hickman as "obsessed" with States, who lived in the apartment above him.

Jurors looked at inspirational greeting cards left on States' car in the weeks before her death. One depicts a waterfall with the caption, "God is kind" and is inscribed "Always a friend in Christ." The cards are signed with an e-mail address that prosecutors have tied to Hickman.

Defense attorney Edward Barry is to continue cross-examining Davis this morning. During his opening statement, Barry said Hickman was with his girlfriend and her daughter near the time that the fire was discovered.

Yesterday, Davis testified that at Hickman's request, he and a friend drove from their home on the Eastern Shore to Overlea. There, another man who was with Hickman instructed Davis to set an apartment on fire, Davis said. He refused, he said.

After testifying, Davis was arrested on three outstanding warrants pertaining to unrelated charges. He had initially refused to testify for fear that his testimony would implicate him in a crime, but Baltimore County Circuit Judge Lawrence R. Daniels compelled Davis to testify under an agreement that his testimony would not be used against him.

Julie Scharper

Cable television

Council seeks Verizon assurances

With a vote days away on whether the Baltimore County Council should enter talks that could lead to Verizon Communications offering cable service in the county, council members said yesterday that they want to ensure that the company eventually offers cable service to the entire county, and not just to the most populous areas.

An affirmative vote by the council Tuesday would begin a 90-day period during which officials from Verizon and the council would set the terms of a license, or franchise agreement, that would allow the company to offer cable television in the county.

At a council work session in Towson yesterday, several council members said they want to ensure that Verizon extends its cable network to the entire county within a reasonable amount of time. Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, floated the idea of creating a list of urban areas and a list of rural areas, and requiring that if Verizon starts to offer service to a neighborhood on the first list, it must also offer service to a neighborhood on the second list.

Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat who handles franchise negotiations on behalf of the council, said Verizon will be subject to the same time constraints as Comcast Cable, now the county's only cable provider, which has a fiber-optic network in the county. Kamenetz cautioned that if the council reaches a franchise agreement with Verizon, the company could not offer service until it built a fiber-optic network.

"Any service would still take years," Kamenetz said.

Josh Mitchell

Dundalk

Traffic accident kills woman, 79

A Dundalk woman died yesterday after the car she was riding in struck a concrete barrier in the 200 block of Wise Ave. near Bear Creek Bridge on Monday, county police said.

Mary Anna Blits, 79, of the 1900 block of Holborn Road died at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where she was taken after the accident. She had been a passenger in a 1990 Ford Escort driven by Arvilla Mae Campbell, police said.

Shortly before 8:30 a.m. Monday, Campbell, 77, of the 200 block of First Ave. in Baltimore, passed a sign warning that the bridge was closed, police said. The car hit an orange traffic barrel and smashed into the barrier, police said. The investigation into the accident continues.

Campbell also was taken to Bayview. Attempts to reach hospital officials yesterday about her condition were unsuccessful.

Nick Shields

Northwest

Smith backs 3 Assembly candidates

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is endorsing three Democratic candidates for the General Assembly in a district in the northwestern area of the county, Smith's campaign said yesterday.

A news conference is scheduled for today to announce Smith's endorsement of Del. Bobby A. Zirkin for the District 11 state Senate seat and of incumbent Dels. Jon S. Cardin and Dan K. Morhaim for re-election.

Zirkin is running against Owings Mills physician Scott Rifkin for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat, and Jeffrey S. Yablon is running unopposed in the Republican Senate primary. The incumbent delegates are among 13 Democrats, along with one Republican and one member of the Green Party, who are seeking the district's three seats.

Events or news items for the Baltimore County Digest may be submitted to baltco.news@baltsun.com. Information should be sent at least 10 days in advance of the event.

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