Suspect in sex assault is set free by mistake

Again, state prison and Arundel police officials fail to communicate

December 20, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

Ronald Lee Moore was freed from prison and walked out of the Baltimore City Correctional Center on a late November day, after serving time on assault and burglary convictions.

But Moore was supposed to remain jailed, after having been linked through DNA to a 1999 sexual assault involving a cattle prod. He had been indicted last spring in Anne Arundel County on charges stemming from that assault, and a judge had ordered that he be held without bond.

Police are searching for Moore, 40, a former crack addict who has been arrested more than a dozen times for theft, burglary and breaking and entering. He has spent only four years of his adult life outside prison.

His release, a mistake that state corrections officials said stemmed from a clerical error, wasn't noticed until Friday. His whereabouts are unknown.

"The commitment office of the Division of Correction has a tremendously difficult job: to keep track of more than 250,000 inmate movements, intakes, changed sentences, court modifications and releases every year. I know they feel bad about this oversight," said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Court records show that for months, Anne Arundel prosecutors had difficulty communicating with state prison officials about Moore. Guards twice failed to bring him from the prison for hearings on the sexual assault charges, and Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers complained in a Sept. 4 letter, sent at the request of Circuit Judge William C. Mulford, to the warden.

"Judge Mulford expressed his displeasure and his inclination to take action if this were to occur again," she wrote. "I hope you will take corrective action."

Moore was due for release Nov. 21 after serving about seven years of a 13-year sentence for crimes in Baltimore and Howard counties. Vernarelli said a detainer, instructing officials to transport Moore to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center upon his release, was not noticed in Moore's file because of "human error."

A review is under way, he said, but "there is nothing at this time to suggest that this was anything other than a very unfortunate oversight in a very complex case."

When county authorities discovered the mistake Friday, a warrant was issued immediately and a parole and probation agent went to Moore's home address, Vernarelli said.

Moore's release was the second time in about two months that a man being sought by Anne Arundel authorities was released as a result of a miscommunication.

Twice-convicted rapist Eugene Waller, who police were seeking sought for failing to register his current address, walked out of a courtroom in October, then was accused of raping a woman at a light rail stop days later. Waller is being held without bond as he awaits trial in that incident.

Charging documents filed in the sexual assault case against Moore show that on Oct. 23, 1999, a man wearing a mask and gloves forced his way into a Glen Burnie apartment about 1:45 a.m. He picked up the occupant's 2-year-old and took the boy into another room. He told the woman he would kill her if she made any noise.

The man forced her to perform a sex act, shocked her with a cattle prod and punched her "numerous times" in the head, according to records. He fled. Police could not identify a suspect.

Seven years later, in July 2006, there was a break: DNA taken from Moore matched evidence collected in the Glen Burnie assault, police said. Moore matched the description given by the victim, and he was charged last May.

Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee attributed the delay between the match and the follow-up with Moore to a deluge of recent developments in cold cases because of DNA collection. He said investigations involving suspects who are walking the streets have taken precedence.

"Mr. Moore was in jail, ostensibly until 2013," Weathersbee said. "He couldn't hurt anybody."

Police are asking for the public's help in locating Moore, who is white, 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds. Police said his last known address was in Silver Spring, though court records show he was living in Baltimore County at the time of his most recent arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call 410-222-3466 or 410-222-8610.

Moore has been arrested many times, with police at one point linking him to nearly 50 burglaries in Baltimore County that involved everything from taking packages from porches to stealing credit cards that he gave to prostitutes. He also was convicted of punching a police officer while fleeing from a Towson burglary and trying to take the officer's gun and pepper spray.

According to an addiction assessment performed by the Division of Correction, Moore blamed his crimes on drug use. A dropout from Dundalk Senior High School, he worked a stint at Bethlehem Steel until he asked to be laid off so he could "break into houses and buy crack," according to the report.

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