Crime Watch

CRIME WATCH

January 31, 2007

After letter to police, state inmate charged in 1994 city killing

James Earl Singleton was shot to death in Park Heights on Sept. 7, 1994.

About six months ago, a state prison inmate wrote to city police and confessed, according to court documents. And, those documents say, the inmate revealed something else: He said he killed another person in 1995.

The inmate, Robert Preston Howard, 38, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Singleton, and yesterday a Baltimore District Court judge ordered him held without bail.

FOR THE RECORD - A brief in the Maryland section yesterday incorrectly suggested that a reading of 30 parts per million would set off a carbon monoxide detector. That is true for specialized machines used by the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, to meet federal standards for the workplace. A typical home carbon monoxide detector will not sound until detecting 70 parts per million for at least one hour.
THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR

Police said they are investigating the 1995 case. "We're still looking into the second victim, but so far we have not been able to substantiate his claim," said Matt Jablow, a city police spokesman.

In 1994, The Sun reported that Singleton, 22, was shot in the head at Park Heights and Woodland avenues after an argument.

The letter, in part, says: "My name is Robert Howard. I killed/murdered two people on separate times in 1994 and 1995," according to court documents. Howard wrote that he shot a man in the right side of the head with a 9 mm weapon, according to the papers.

The letter was mailed to police Aug. 4. Four days later, a detective drove to the Eastern Shore - where Howard was serving time for an armed robbery conviction - and interviewed him.

Annie Linskey

Woman pleads guilty in arson

A 40-year-old woman pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday to arson for setting a fire that destroyed a Carroll County business in 2005.

According to the plea agreement presented to the court, Michele Heckner set fire May 31, 2005, to Lady Baltimore Flooring in the 2800 block of Baltimore Blvd. in Finksburg.

Heckner, who had been a company employee, also attempted to blow up the propane tanks near the outside wall of the building, according to authorities.

Prosecutors did not divulge a motive.

The fire was discovered when Maryland State Trooper Edward P. Winkler answered a 5 a.m. burglar alarm and saw smoke when he walked to the rear of the business. He then saw flames shooting from a window, and he doused them with a fire extinguisher in his patrol car, authorities said shortly after the blaze.

Arson investigators found that an accelerant, similar to kerosene or lighter fluid, was found in the building. Acetone, another flammable liquid, was found outside, at the base of the propane tanks, according to authorities.

Damage had originally been estimated at $175,000, but federal prosecutors raised the estimate to more than $400,000. Heckner faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 20.

Matthew Dolan

Girl is charged in stabbing

A girl was arrested at Calverton Middle School yesterday and charged with stabbing two other students with a pen, school system officials said.

The girl is accused of attacking the students about 3:40 p.m. Monday on West Lafayette Avenue, near the school, said Edie House, a city school system spokeswoman. The two victims were treated at a hospital and released.

The girl was arrested yesterday morning after arriving for school at Calverton, House said.

Fumes send five to hospital

Five people were hospitalized yesterday after being exposed to potentially harmful levels of carbon monoxide in a Ferndale home, an Anne Arundel County fire official said.

A carbon monoxide detector at a house in the 100 block of Ferndale Road went off about 10:40 a.m., and two women, ages 51 and 46, two men, ages 55 and 20, and a 16-year-old boy were found suffering from headaches and nausea, said fire Lt. Russ Davies.

Tests revealed readings of 120 parts per million of carbon monoxide on the first floor of the home and, in the basement, 900 parts per million, which can be lethal in small doses, Davies said. A reading of 30 parts per million typically sets off a detector's alarm.

Two of the victims were sent to Maryland Shock Trauma Center; three others were taken to University of Maryland Medical Center, Davies said. Their conditions were not available.

Dan Lamothe

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