Week In Review

August 19, 2007

Anne Arundel

Man pleads guilty in unsolved slayings

A man already serving a life sentence for a 1994 slaying pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of rape in a trio of brutal killings that went unsolved for more than a decade.

Alexander Wayne Watson Jr., 36, made the formal plea three days after meeting with families of his victims, who were all strangled and fatally stabbed: Boon Tem Andersen at her Gambrills home on Oct. 6, 1986; Elaine Shereika as she was jogging on May 23, 1988; and Lisa Kathleen Haenel, 14, as she walked to Old Mill High School on Jan. 15, 1993.

Watson was brought into the Anne Arundel County courtroom under unusually heavy security, including 10 uniformed deputies, several others in plainclothes and at least one uniformed state Division of Correction officer. Though everyone has to pass security to enter the courthouse in Annapolis, deputies checked everyone a second time before allowing them to enter the courtroom.

Maryland section, Friday

Gambrills

Dump site cleanup stalls store plans

A state order requiring BBSS Inc. to clean up contaminated water found near its coal ash dump site in Gambrills has stalled a proposed shopping center expansion that would bring in a Target store. The Village at Waugh Chapel South would be built off Route 3 on part of the 80-acre site where Baltimore Gas & Electric has been hauling its fly ash, a byproduct from its coal-fired power plants. The Anne Arundel County Health Department found unsafe levels of sulfates in nearby drinking wells last fall, leading the Maryland Department of the Environment to order BBSS on Aug. 7 to address the problem or face a stiff penalty. Neither the exact language nor the amount of the penalty will be released until after the two sides work out the details of the cleanup, expected within the next two months, said Robert Ballinger, a spokesman for MDE. A spokesman for BBSS said Tuesday that the order prevents dumping fly ash in new areas of the landfill, particularly a 10-acre section that would permit the shopping center to move forward as planned. Once the section is filled, the area can be regraded and offered to potential tenants, said Jay Baldwin, president of Reliable Contracting. Some of Reliable's partners are part-owners of BBSS.

Anne Arundel section, Wednesday

Anne Arundel

Families grieve at homicide sentencing

Moments after the sentence was handed down, the murder victim's relatives hugged the killer's distraught mother.

Leeander Jerome Blake was going to prison for life, five years after the carjacking-murder of businessman Straughan Lee Griffin on a picturesque cul-de-sac in Annapolis' historic district. And in a federal courtroom in Baltimore Wednesday, two families were left to mourn.

"Another mother just lost her son," Neal H. Griffin, the victim's brother, said of the young man who had suggested the carjacking. "There is no victory in that."

But to this day, he said in court, his grief is so incalculable that "it's almost impossible to say brother and murder in the same sentence," just as he cannot watch the types of media productions that were his brother's business.

The emotional hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore brought an apparent end to a case in which Blake had faced murder charges in state court, but saw the charges dropped after he successfully argued that he was illegally interrogated by police. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the state's appeal, but then a federal grand jury indicted Blake on murder and carjacking charges last year.

Yesterday, appearing scared as his voice cracked, Blake, 22, apologized to the victim's family, asking forgiveness. "No one may think I am sincere, but I really am," said Blake.

A section, Thursday

Pasadena

Murder defendant refuses medicine

Accused of killing his mother with two shotgun blasts as she sat on her sofa, Zachary Thomas Neiman says he wants his day in court. But he has refused to take medicine that prosecutors say would allow doctors to deem him mentally competent to stand trial.

"Mr. Neiman has drawn a line in the sand and said, `This is how much medicine I'm taking,' " Assistant State's Attorney Pamela Alban said yesterday at a court hearing. "A lot of it lies with Mr. Neiman."

Refusing treatment won't free the 26-year-old Pasadena man anytime soon, experts say. While a person charged with a crime can theoretically avoid trial -- or prison -- by being found mentally incompetent, that defendant will end up remaining in a state institution where psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nurses and other experts will continually watch, test and re-evaluate him.

"People aren't getting away with anything. You can be confined in a psychiatric hospital forever. It can have no end," said Laura L. Cain, managing attorney for the adult mental health unit of the Maryland Disability Law Center.

Neiman has pleaded not criminally responsible to first-degree murder in the July 2006 slaying of his mother, Rae Bajus, and his attorneys intend to show he has a history of mental illness.

A section, Tuesday

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