Crime Watch


February 07, 2007

Intruder gets 10 years; his motive is in doubt

An out-of-work carpenter was handed a 10-year prison term yesterday for forcing his way into the Odenton townhouse of a woman he had followed home and attacking her, but whether the crime was an attempted robbery or an attempted rape remained in dispute.

The victim "was not in danger of any sexual assault," James E. Darnell, 28, of Jessup told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck before he was sentenced. His lawyer said Darnell's crime was an attempted robbery by a man in financial crisis.

The 23-year-old victim said she didn't believe that. Darnell had followed her home at midday, pushed his way into her house wearing latex gloves and carrying condoms and a jar of personal lubricant, and demanded to know if she was home alone, before throttling her in front of her 4-year-old son. Her purse lay nearby, untouched.

"I would have been strangled or I would have been raped, with my two children in the house," the woman said.

Her husband heard her scream and tackled Darnell.

Manck said he found the Feb. 13 crime -- which police investigated as an attempted robbery until Darnell's K-Y Jelly went into a jail trash can -- "especially troublesome."

"I'm not really sure what your motive was that day," Manck told Darnell.

Last month he convicted Darnell of attempted robbery and related crimes, but not of attempted rape because he could not presume the attack would have been a sexual assault.

The sentence exceeded state guidelines for burglary and attempted robbery, but would have fallen at the top of the guidelines for attempted rape.

Manck sentenced Darnell to 35 years for all of the crimes and suspended all but 10 years. Darnell will be on probation for five years after he is released from prison.

Andrea F. Siegel

NSA worker accused of conflict of interest in contract award

A National Security Agency employee who organized computer security exercises with students at military service academies faces criminal charges for his role in a $340,000 contract being awarded to his wife's computer company, federal prosecutors announced yesterday.

The criminal information filed against Wayne J. Schepens, 37, of Severna Park says that in about 2000, he helped create the Cyber Defense Exercise, in which teams of cadets and midshipman would try to protect computer exercises from teams of hackers from the NSA and military reserves.

But the U.S. attorney's office says that in March 2004, Schepens' wife became the chief executive officer and majority shareholder of a company known as CDXperts Inc., which was based in their home.

The criminal information alleges that later in 2004, Schepens helped the company receive a $340,000 subcontract to support the 2005 competition. In November 2005, Schepens was removed from his role directing the annual exercise, prosecutors said.

Schepens is scheduled to make his initial U.S. District Court appearance tomorrow morning in Baltimore.

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