3rd plea in man's death

Son to admit role in killing of mom's boyfriend

Sun Follow-up

July 02, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

The 20-year-old son of a brazen con artist who has been convicted of killing her boyfriend and then setting his body on fire is scheduled to plead guilty later this month for his role in that crime, according to court records.

Matthew Haarhoff is charged with first-degree murder in the February 2006 death of Tony Fertitta, whose body was found burning in the Old Mill community of Anne Arundel County. A family member said yesterday that Haarhoff was expected to plead to a lesser charge, but his attorney and prosecutors declined to discuss the details of the plea.

Haarhoff's mother, Cindy McKay, who was convicted of the killing in May, is now scheduled to be sentenced for that crime one day before Haarhoff.

His conviction would represent the third in the case, described by attorneys on both sides as one of the most complex they had ever handled. His older brother, Christopher Haarhoff, and McKay were also charged with first-degree murder and pleaded guilty to lesser counts.

The confidential investigative case file obtained by The Sun showed that Matthew Haarhoff offered several conflicting accounts of his whereabouts on the night of the crime and allegedly confessed to it, saying he stabbed and shot Fertitta. A medical examiner ruled Fertitta was not shot.

In interviews conducted at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center this year, Haarhoff adamantly maintained his innocence. He has spent his 18th, 19th and 20th birthdays in jail awaiting trial.

"I lied," he said. "They say the inconsistencies with my statements make me look bad, but I'd never been in that kind of situation before. I wanted to get the police off my back."

McKay, 53, whose lengthy criminal history was the subject of a three-part series in The Sun this year, entered an Alford plea April 17 to charges of second-degree murder and felony theft. McKay could face a maximum of 30 years in prison when she is sentenced July 16.

Over the course of more than two decades, McKay, a former Prince George's County police cadet and mother of six, has survived the death of a previous husband in a Christmas Day fire and was accused of burning down an Annapolis business that she had stolen from. She eluded authorities for three months in 2002 by faking a suicide after learning she was facing charges of embezzling more than $200,000 from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, where she worked as an office administrator. Along the way, she stole tens of thousands from an elderly Delaware woman who had offered her a place to stay.

Released from prison in July 2005, McKay moved to Millersville and began dating Fertitta that fall. The 50-year-old UPS driver and warehouse worker did not know he was dating a convicted con artist, prosecutors said.

His body was found Feb. 22, 2006, and police quickly zeroed in on McKay. Fertitta's blood was found under a bleach-soaked rug in her dining room, and surveillance tapes showed her purchasing gasoline and bleach from local stores. More blood was found in his loaner truck, along with McKay's cell phone and a knife from her kitchen.

When Christopher Haarhoff pleaded guilty in November to one count of accessory after the fact, prosecutors said that, on the night of the crime, McKay had called him and told him to come to her home.

There, he allegedly saw her covered in blood and she said she had killed Fertitta because he had learned she was stealing from him. Christopher Haarhoff told prosecutors that he helped his mother dispose of the body.

Nowhere in the statement of facts read by prosecutors in court was Matthew Haarhoff mentioned, and his brother's attorney, John McKenna, said the brothers did not see each other that night.

Still, McKay's plea did little to clear up the younger son's role. By entering an Alford plea, McKay acknowledged that there was enough evidence for a conviction but did not admit guilt.

Haarhoff's attorney, David Putzi, said after the hearing that it had been potentially damaging to her son's case.

"I don't think that was the mother's intention, but I think that might be the result," Putzi said.

In some of Haarhoff's statements, he placed himself at his mother's home on the night of the killing. Prosecutors also said his DNA - from sweat - was found on the steering wheel of Fertitta's loaner truck, which Haarhoff said he had never been in.

He spent that night at his girlfriend's house, but she and her mother were unsure whether he could have left in the middle of the night and come back.

A few days after the killing, after McKay had been arrested on accessory after the fact charges, Haarhoff traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., with a group of friends he had only recently met. They later reported to police that he had acted suspiciously, quietly taking phone calls and disposing of the battery of his girlfriend's cell phone. There, another teenager said that Haarhoff confessed to the crime.

Haarhoff was arrested March 2, 2006, in a Salisbury motel room where he was staying with a half-sister.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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