Diana Pilleris said Jeff Cupp broke into her apartment and stole $200. Baltimore police arrested him, charging him with burglary and destruction of property, and he spent three days in the city jail.
The day after he posted bail, Cupp jumped on an airplane and flew to Germany with his girlfriend. He failed to appear for his trial, and a judge promptly issued a warrant seeking his arrest.
That was Sept. 15, 1981.
The warrant was never served, and most of the paperwork appears to have been lost. But the basics of the case linger in court computer systems. And Cupp, who now lives in Munich, wants to return to America for his mother's 80th birthday.
But he said in a telephone interview Thursday that he's scared to come back as a fugitive from justice.
"I don't want to spend any time in jail," the 51-year-old program manager for a German Internet company said. "It was unpleasant."
Cupp is one of dozens of people who have flooded Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Deros' voice mail since authorities announced Tuesday a program called Operation Safe Surrender, to be held in a makeshift courthouse at New Metropolitan Baptist Church on June 16-19.
It will give thousands of people wanted on outstanding warrants for nonviolent crimes a chance to turn themselves in and in exchange get "favorable consideration" for their cases. Prosecutors said most will see their cases dropped or get probation or some other punishment that doesn't involve jail.
There are an estimated 40,000 people wanted on warrants in Baltimore, and Deros has been spending the past few weeks wading through old files to weed out weak cases. She dropped 500 in a single day, mostly because police officers or key witnesses were either dead or otherwise unavailable. Many of the crimes, such as decades-old charges of loitering and drinking in public, were deemed too minor to bother with so many years later.
The phone calls started minutes after a Tuesday news conference announcing the program. Deros said that between noon and 4:30 p.m., more than 40 people called seeking safe surrender. One man lived in Japan. Another, Cupp, called from Germany.
Deros tells most callers they must come to the church and go through the process. But, she said, Cupp told her he's been unable to return because of the open warrant. He told her he has dual U.S.-German citizenship and married overseas.
The details of Cupp's case remain murky. Deros has been unable to find the original court file or police report and has asked a court investigator for help. Type Cupp's name into the Maryland Judicial Information Internet database and his case does appear.
But there are few details. There's a District Court case number, the date the warrant was issued and Cupp's address at the time, in the St. Paul Regency building around the corner from the Belvedere Hotel.
Cupp, who was 21 at the time of the incident, said his girlfriend had lent Pilleris $200 and she wouldn't pay him back.
"I broke into her apartment to get it back," Cupp said. He was caught and went to jail. He said Thursday that he left the country because he had already quit his job, had a ticket to Germany and his girlfriend needed an operation.
Was he ever planning to return to face his charges?
"I was 21," Cupp said. "I wasn't thinking that far ahead."
Attempts to reach Pilleris were unsuccessful. The court docket lists no age, address or other identifying information. A search of records shows a Diana Pilleris in Baltimore last living on North Charles Street, but her trail ends in January 1999.
Deros said she found what she thinks is a correct apartment building. She couldn't find an apartment number but said she might ask whether a police officer could stop by. But without court records, there's not much Deros can do.
"If I don't have a file, I can't prosecute," she said.
Said Cupp: "It's unbelievable this has been on the books this long."