Son pleads guilty in mother's death

Arundel man not criminally responsible in shotgun slaying

August 07, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

A 27-year-old Anne Arundel County man pleaded guilty yesterday to fatally shooting his mother and attempting to kill his stepfather in 2006, but he was found not criminally responsible, the state's equivalent of an insanity defense.

Zachary T. Neiman was delusional and had been hearing voices in the weeks leading up to the July 8, 2006, murder of his mother, Rae Bajus, 53, at their Pasadena home, said prosecutor Pamela Alban at a hearing in county Circuit Court before Judge Paul A. Hackner.

Neiman fired two shots from a 12-gauge shotgun at his mother as she sat on their living room couch in the 100 block of Beacrane Road, the prosecutor said. Neiman's stepfather, David Bajus, was sitting on the couch watching television with his wife at the time of the shooting. He was not shot, and he fled to a neighbor's home to call 911.

Neiman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in his mother's death and to the attempted second-degree murder of his step-father. The judge, concurring with the results of an evaluation from the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, where Neiman has been held since early last year, ruled the man not criminally responsible for the crimes.

Neiman, who has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, the prosecutor said, was committed to the psychiatric hospital for an undetermined amount of time. Neiman's defense attorney, Karl Gordon, declined to comment.

"I have in my own family some experience with some of the issues that Mr. Neiman is dealing with," Hackner said during the hearing, speaking to the victim's family. "Unfortunately, in this case, it turned into such a sad story, and I feel very badly for you."

Seven years before the shooting, Neiman had been ordered not to have any contact with his mother or his stepfather after he was charged with false imprisonment and convicted of assaulting them, according to court records.

At the time of the murder, Neiman was hearing voices and thought his mother was hearing the same voices. He also thought that his stepfather was abusing his mother, although prosecutors say there is no basis for that belief. He thought that by killing his mother, the prosecutor said, he would "free her from the abuse."

David Bajus attended yesterday's hearing with Rae Bajus' sisters. They did not speak in court and declined to comment afterward.

About 10 o'clock on the night of the murder, Neiman had eaten and gone upstairs to use his computer, while his mother and stepfather watched television on the couch. He came back downstairs five minutes later holding his father's shotgun, and fired at his mother twice, shooting her twice in the upper back, Alban said. His stepfather shouted, "What are you doing?"

Neiman was "mumbling" and seemed "really agitated," as he attempted to strike David Bajus with the butt of the gun. The two men struggled in the kitchen, and David Bajus managed to flee from the house. Rae Bajus was pronounced dead at the home about 10:15 p.m.

Neiman apparently hid in woods near the home, but was arrested a short time later, Alban said. He was "sweating profusely" and covered in mud, the prosecutor said.

In an initial evaluation at Perkins on Feb. 13, 2007, Neiman was found "competent and criminally responsible," Alban said. But doctors later "felt that the defendant was masking his illness."

According to the prosecutor, the family was aware of his mental health issues. Rae Bajus wrote in a journal that she was "afraid for their safety and he might try to kill them." He had received treatment previously at the Baltimore Washington Medical Center and was scheduled to see a doctor to deal with his mental health issues a week after the murder.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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