Baltimore County Digest

BALTIMORE COUNTY DIGEST

March 14, 2007

Convicted killer's death investigated

Maryland's death row population has shrunk to five men with the death of convicted killer Lawrence M. Borchardt Sr. in prison.

The 55-year-old inmate was taken Sunday evening to Mercy Medical Center after being found unresponsive in his cell and was pronounced dead a short time later, said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The department's Internal Investigative Unit is investigating Borchardt's death, although there were no signs of trauma or foul play, Vernarelli said. A representative of the state medical examiner's office said Borchardt's autopsy was pending yesterday.

Convicted in 2000 and sentenced to death in the fatal stabbings of an elderly Rosedale couple on Thanksgiving Day 1998, Borchardt suffered from diabetes, liver disease and other illnesses. He told a judge two years ago that he wanted to abandon his remaining court appeals and be put to death because living in prison with his health problems was "just too hard."

He later changed his mind and agreed to allow his attorneys to continue their legal battle if he did not have to attend the court proceedings.

The judge who considered that round of appeals in 2005 granted Borchardt a new sentencing hearing, but that decision was overturned in January when Maryland's highest court reinstated the death sentence.

Brian Murphy, a criminal defense attorney who has worked on Borchardt's appeals for at least 2 1/2 years, said he last saw the inmate Feb. 28 when he stopped by the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center to have Borchardt sign legal papers.

"He was like he always was," Murphy said. "He looked bad. He looked sick."

News of Borchardt's death reached his legal team days before its Friday filing deadline for a federal legal challenge to the death sentence.

Borchardt was convicted of killing Joseph and Bernice Ohler in their Rosedale home after the couple had twice given money to Borchardt, a heroin addict who was going door to door claiming that his wife needed cancer treatments. He killed the couple when they told him they didn't have any more money to give.

"It was one of the most brutal murders you can imagine," said Murphy, the defense attorney. "But he was, in my opinion, one of the most damaged human beings I have ever met in my 28 years of doing this."

Jennifer McMenamin

County Council

Renewal of jail contract urged

Baltimore County's jail administrator urged County Council members yesterday to renew a contract that pays a company to apply for federal money, dismissing the views of officials elsewhere who have called such arrangements wasteful.

Under the one-year contract, Texas-based Justice Benefits Inc. would collect 18 percent of procurements from a federal program that reimburses counties for housing undocumented immigrants in jails. Officials in Carroll County, Illinois and Denver have said the firm's services are unnecessary because government employees can prepare applications.

James P. O'Neill, administrator of the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections, said the arrangement saves the county the expense of hiring clerks to prepare the applications.

O'Neill expects to get $25,000 to $30,000 from the program this year.

Also yesterday, Councilman Vincent J. Gardina asked for support for a bill to expand the areas allowed to house wineries. Under his bill, owners of lots bigger than 50 acres in certain rural zoning classifications would, with county approval, be allowed to distribute wine wholesale on their land.

Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, also proposed allowing residents in the Hillendale area to create a community plan.

The council is to vote on the measures Monday.

Josh Mitchell

Essex

Senior housing plan finds home

A development team has agreed to buy a long-blighted parcel in Essex and build housing for senior citizens and mixed-income families, county officials said yesterday.

A partnership between Enterprise Homes and Mark Building has agreed in principle to buy the former site of the Kingsley Park complex from the county. Financial terms of the deal have not been completed.

The county has owned the 18 acres on Old Eastern Avenue and Back River Neck Road since 2004, when it paid the former owner $2.2 million and then acquired the land from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in a three-way deal.

The county has since struggled to attract developers to redevelop the site, which was described as an important piece of County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s initiative to spruce up older communities. Donald I. Mohler, a spokesman for Smith, said many developers were probably scared off by federal requirements that three-fourths of the land be devoted to affordable housing.

A plan created by county officials and community leaders calls for 78 units of senior housing and 116 townhouses and single-family homes.

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