Killer may face return to prison

Suspended sentence to be reviewed

June 24, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

For killing a woman who had let him stay at her Anne Arundel County home, Christopher Perkins O'Brien was sentenced to a decade in prison - but all but a year and a half behind bars and an equal amount of time on house arrest were suspended.

Now he is accused of running afoul of the conditions set for doing time outside of prison.

O'Brien was ordered yesterday to be held at the county detention center until an August court hearing, where he could be ordered to serve the balance of his suspended sentence.

Since he was released from prison and began an 18-month stint on house arrest earlier this year, O'Brien has returned late several times from court-approved outings to the Annapolis home where he has been staying, according to court documents.

Sometimes he left without permission at all, according to records. O'Brien, who was allowed to leave the home only to work, attend medical appointments and treatment, and to visit his probation agent, claimed he left the house to avoid cigarette smoke and was at times late because of a car breakdown.

O'Brien, 35, was found guilty last year of manslaughter in the June 4, 2006, strangulation death of Katherine Randolph White, a 32-year-old Maryland City archaeologist. The two had become friends during a stay at a substance abuse rehabilitation center, and upon their release, White offered O'Brien a place to stay, according to trial testimony.

White gave O'Brien three times the prescribed amount of a sedative in the days leading up to her death, the man's lawyer later said. The two argued during that time, and O'Brien strangled White and left her body on the kitchen floor, according to testimony.

O'Brien continued to live in the house, stepping over the woman's body, watching television and eating, prosecutors have said. White's mother, Rebecca Randolph, came to the home after not hearing from her daughter and found the body.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul F. Harris Jr.'s sentence for O'Brien disappointed prosecutors and outraged the victim's family.

Randolph, who attended yesterday's hearing, said afterward, "He's a man who's been out of control for a very long time. ... I did not feel that the original sentence was at all in keeping with the horror of the crime, and I think most people agree."

Prosecutor Kelly M. Poma and Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office declined to comment.

O'Brien's attorney at the murder trial, Frank C. Gray Jr., is not representing him in this matter. O'Brien was advised yesterday in court that he must retain an attorney by his August court date.O'Brien had been serving his house arrest at a home in the 200 block of Winchester Beach Drive in Annapolis, his address before his arrest.

Earlier this year, Gray petitioned the court to modify O'Brien's sentence, eliminating the remaining house arrest and allowing him to live at a halfway house. In March, he wrote a letter to Harris, the judge, saying that O'Brien had been accepted at Oxford House in Annapolis but that his home detention "has proven incompatible with his admission into other halfway houses."

"This is my last chance to move into a sober, structured and supportive environment," O'Brien wrote in an e-mail to his attorney March 7.

In response to the motion, Poma filed a tersely worded brief saying she was "adamantly opposed" to the sentence modification and that Oxford House "does not provide sufficient structure ... has no counselors" and "is simply a boarding house for addicts."

She also noted that O'Brien, who had worked as a waiter in the past, recently applied for a job at the Rams Head Tavern, and "in light of the defendant's lengthy history of alcoholism, prior DUI, and desire to presently live in a halfway house the state questions the wisdom of the defendant seeking employment at a bar."

According to court documents, O'Brien violated the terms of his house arrest several times beginning in April.

"Despite multiple warnings, the defendant again began to be non-compliant in late May and has continued these actions since that time," Poma wrote to the judge, requesting the court issue a bench warrant for O'Brien.

The prosecutor added that O'Brien returned at least an hour late with no explanation on several occasions.

Records show that on April 29, O'Brien did not return to the home at the approved time. Records say that it was his second warning to be more mindful of his conditions. Less than a month later, on May 23 and May 24, he was late retuning home. He claimed, according to records, that the "residence is filled with smokers and he steps out to get fresh air."

Again, on June 6, he was late. On June 7, an official with the county department of detention facilities called O'Brien at 7 p.m. and got no answer. An hour later, there was no answer again. "I called his mother who claimed he came by her house to pick up clothes at approximately [5 p.m.] used her credit card to get gas came back w/the card visited till approx. [7:40] then left for home," according to his house arrest report.

O'Brien was arrested June 13.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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