Manslaughter Charges Emerge In Nursing Home Case

October 16, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

A Howard County grand jury has indicted an 88-year-old man on manslaughter charges, rather than the original charge of second-degree murder, in the death of a fellow resident at an assisted living facility in Columbia.

Earl L. Wilder, who had been living at Harmony Hall for two years, is accused of attacking James W. Brown on Aug. 17 as the 91-year-old sat on a bench outside smoking a cigarette. According to police, Wilder, a former boxer and retired transit worker, got out of his wheelchair and started hitting Brown in the head. Brown died from his injuries five days later.

Wilder, who family members said and court records showed suffers from dementia, was first moved to a private psychiatric facility and later to Springfield Hospital Center, a state psychiatric facility in Sykesville. According to Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the state's attorney's office, Wilder will be served there with a warrant in the next few days.

Kirwan said that Wilder remains at Springfield under a "civil commitment," meaning his family had kept him there. Wilder's daughter, Frances Crist, gained guardianship of her father in May 2008.

Kirwan said that the state plans to prosecute Wilder but that prosecutors expect a defense bid for an insanity plea.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun in August, a Baltimore defense attorney predicted that Wilder would wind up in a secure mental health facility rather than prison.

"It sounds like a slam-dunk for 'not criminally responsible,' " said Warren A. Brown, who is not related to the man Wilder killed.

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