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Rita Fisher

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By Gerard Shields and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF | December 18, 2001
Maryland's highest court upheld yesterday the murder convictions of two Baltimore County women charged in the starvation death of a 9-year-old Pikesville girl in 1997 in a case that shocked the county. Mary E. Utley and Rose Mary Fisher argued that their second-degree murder conviction in the death of Rita Denise Fisher was inappropriate. The women's attorneys contended that felony, or unintentional, murder charges could not be brought in a child abuse case. But the seven-member Court of Appeals disagreed, affirming the convictions in what they called a case with "horrid facts."
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NEWS
By ANN LOLORDO | February 28, 2004
BEFORE DAVID Carr, there was Ciara Jobes. Before Ciara Jobes, there was Shamir Hudson. Before Shamir Hudson, there was Rita Fisher. Before Rita Fisher, there was Maurice Miles. The deaths of 2-month-old David, 15-year-old Ciara, 8-year-old Shamir and 9-year-old Rita made headlines because they were beaten and tortured by their parents or guardians. Their deaths were all the more tragic because a public agency knew that they might be at risk. Tormented by those expected to care for and love them, these children were instead betrayed by them.
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NEWS
April 30, 1998
SINCE 9-year-old Rita Fisher died last June, a justifiably outraged public has searched for appropriate parties to blame. Tuesday, the lion's share of the blame was placed where it belongs: on the three people who killed the third-grader by beating her, tying her up and denying her food and water.Convicted were her mother, Mary E. Utley; her sister, Rose Mary Fisher; and her sister's boyfriend, Frank E. Scarpola Jr., who at 21 was handed authority to discipline Rita and her sister, Georgia, now 16.Baltimore County jurors rendered a verdict that feels right in every way. Evidence of premeditation -- necessary for first-degree murder convictions -- was lacking.
NEWS
By Stephanie Hanes and Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF | August 3, 2003
Five and a half years before Baltimore police found 15-year-old Ciara Jobes starved and beaten to death in her guardian's O'Donnell Heights kitchen, Baltimore County officers started to investigate reports from the autopsy of a skinny third-grader named Rita Fisher. Fisher, 9, died in the hospital after being brought there by paramedics called by her family -- the family that would later be convicted of torturing her to death in their Pikesville home. When her mother, older sister and older sister's boyfriend were tried for murder, it was shown that Rita had been beaten and starved, locked in a basement bathroom her mother called "the hole," and bound to her dresser at night.
NEWS
By Larry Carson and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF | February 5, 1998
A day after her forced resignation, Baltimore County's director of social services said that her relationship with the county executive had been cool for months -- especially after the starvation death of 9-year-old Rita Fisher in June.Camille B. Wheeler, who has headed the department for 19 years, said yesterday that she failed to satisfy the county executive's desire for dramatic change in response to public outrage over Fisher's death."I didn't handle my conversations with [C. A. Dutch]
NEWS
By Joan Jacobson and Jay Apperson and Joan Jacobson and Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF | July 9, 1998
A Baltimore County judge yesterday blasted the county's Department of Social Services for failing to prevent the murder of 9-year-old Rita Denise Fisher, even as he sentenced the girl's mother, sister and her sister's boyfriend to decades in prison for "sadistic, brutal and inhuman treatment."Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz sentenced Rita's mother, Mary E. Utley, to 75 years in prison; Rita's sister, Rose Mary Fisher, to 30 years; and the sister's boyfriend, Frank E. Scarpola Jr., to 95 years.
NEWS
August 10, 1997
SEVERAL WEEKS NOW have passed since 9-year-old Rita Fisher died after allegedly being starved and abused by members of her family -- a family whose troubles had been under scrutiny by Baltimore County child protection workers.Disturbing questions raised by her death still demand answers and should be provoking discussion about changes in child abuse prevention laws and policies. Yet those questions have been met with virtual silence from government officials.Was everything done that could have been to save this child?
NEWS
January 27, 1998
THE BUSINESS OF child welfare is cloaked in confidentiality for good reason. Ethically, people who seek or accept help in the most intimate areas of their lives have a right to expect that such matters will be private. This is as sacred a tenet in social work as in medicine and psychiatry.Practically, the ability of social service caseworkers to help children who reportedly have been mistreated hinges on trust. Caseworkers depend on people being willing to report a suspicion of abuse, trusting that their identities will be protected.
NEWS
By Laura Cadiz and Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF | January 5, 2001
Attorneys for two Baltimore County women convicted in the starvation death of 9-year-old Rita Fisher told the state's highest court yesterday that their clients never intended to kill the girl and should not have been found guilty of second-degree felony murder. In a second set of oral arguments before the Maryland Court of Appeals, lawyers for Mary E. Utley, the girl's mother, and Rose Mary Fisher, the girl's adult sister, also argued the second-degree murder conviction was inappropriate because child abuse is not "inherently dangerous" to life, and the crime doesn't qualify as a felony.
NEWS
By Jay Apperson and Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF | April 30, 1998
To some, Rita Denise Fisher was a skinny third-grader who scavenged for food, yet feared she would be punished if she told anyone about the ache in her stomach. To others, she was a sweet little girl who reluctantly admitted that her own mother caused the bruises under her sad eyes.Some recalled her as the scruffy kid who liked to play outside, but oddly enough rarely left her house in her last weeks alive. Others knew her as the baby of a family with a long history of abuse, the frailest member of a household where equipping the refrigerator with an alarm seemed a reasonable idea.
NEWS
By Dennis O'Brien and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF | August 29, 2002
One of Rita Fisher's older sisters has filed a $15 million suit against Baltimore County claiming county social workers helped cause the girl's death by failing to respond to reports of abuse in the months before she died of starvation at her mother's home in 1997. The suit, filed by Georgia Fisher, alleges that social workers failed to detect the abuse inflicted on her and Rita. It also claims that Fisher, now 21, suffers from depression and other psychological problems because of the abuse and her memories of Rita's death at age 9. "From the time of Rita Fisher's death until the present, Georgia Fisher has spent her life in and out of psychiatric institutions for treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and suicidal ideation, stemming from the abuse she suffered," according to the suit filed this week in Baltimore County Circuit Court.
NEWS
By Gerard Shields and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF | December 18, 2001
Maryland's highest court upheld yesterday the murder convictions of two Baltimore County women charged in the starvation death of a 9-year-old Pikesville girl in 1997 in a case that shocked the county. Mary E. Utley and Rose Mary Fisher argued that their second-degree murder conviction in the death of Rita Denise Fisher was inappropriate. The women's attorneys contended that felony, or unintentional, murder charges could not be brought in a child abuse case. But the seven-member Court of Appeals disagreed, affirming the convictions in what they called a case with "horrid facts."
NEWS
By Laura Cadiz and Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF | January 5, 2001
Attorneys for two Baltimore County women convicted in the starvation death of 9-year-old Rita Fisher told the state's highest court yesterday that their clients never intended to kill the girl and should not have been found guilty of second-degree felony murder. In a second set of oral arguments before the Maryland Court of Appeals, lawyers for Mary E. Utley, the girl's mother, and Rose Mary Fisher, the girl's adult sister, also argued the second-degree murder conviction was inappropriate because child abuse is not "inherently dangerous" to life, and the crime doesn't qualify as a felony.
NEWS
By Joan Jacobson and Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF | July 4, 1999
Two Reisterstown girls gave up their $5 allowance. Politicians sent $100. A California woman wrote, "I'm sending this in memory of all the hurt children -- including myself."The Georgia Fisher Trust Fund, established in May for the sister of slain 9-year-old Rita Denise Fisher, so far has brought in $21,000 from more than 400 donors.The outpouring of gifts -- accompanied by emotional letters from many of the donors -- was a pleasant surprise for Georgia, 17, who lives at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital and suffers from emotional problems after a childhood of abuse and neglect in Pikesville.
NEWS
By Joan Jacobson and Jay Apperson and Joan Jacobson and Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF | July 9, 1998
A Baltimore County judge yesterday blasted the county's Department of Social Services for failing to prevent the murder of 9-year-old Rita Denise Fisher, even as he sentenced the girl's mother, sister and her sister's boyfriend to decades in prison for "sadistic, brutal and inhuman treatment."Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz sentenced Rita's mother, Mary E. Utley, to 75 years in prison; Rita's sister, Rose Mary Fisher, to 30 years; and the sister's boyfriend, Frank E. Scarpola Jr., to 95 years.
NEWS
By Howard Libit and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF | May 24, 1998
In the wake of the child-abuse death of Rita Fisher, Baltimore County school officials are considering a substantially tougher policy that would hold all adults -- including parent volunteers and student teachers -- responsible for reporting suspected cases of abuse.The new policy would also require increased training for all staff members -- many of whom are the first to see signs of abuse -- and designate one person in every school as the main contact point for police and social services investigators.
NEWS
By Stephanie Hanes and Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF | August 3, 2003
Five and a half years before Baltimore police found 15-year-old Ciara Jobes starved and beaten to death in her guardian's O'Donnell Heights kitchen, Baltimore County officers started to investigate reports from the autopsy of a skinny third-grader named Rita Fisher. Fisher, 9, died in the hospital after being brought there by paramedics called by her family -- the family that would later be convicted of torturing her to death in their Pikesville home. When her mother, older sister and older sister's boyfriend were tried for murder, it was shown that Rita had been beaten and starved, locked in a basement bathroom her mother called "the hole," and bound to her dresser at night.
NEWS
By Larry Carson and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF | February 4, 1998
Baltimore County's longtime director of social services was forced to resign yesterday, a move that led angry social workers to charge she was being made a scapegoat for the June starvation death of 9-year-old Rita Fisher.About 20 social workers marched to the county executive's office in protest after learning about the resignation of Camille B. Wheeler, 56, who has led the department for 19 years."This is a person who has stood up for the children and families of Baltimore County and faced ridicule and done so in dignity, and she's being sacrificed, it appears," said Robbyn Zimmerman, one of the social workers.
NEWS
By DAN RODRICKS | May 15, 1998
I SEE WHERE the governor wants politicians, such as himself, to refrain from campaigning at the Preakness tomorrow so as not to disturb "the family atmosphere" of the day. Has this guy been on the infield? You can connect the word "family" to the phrase "Preakness infield" only if you're talking about those that have been conceptualized there, under the blankets. And sometimesnot under the blankets.We scratch our head in puzzlement, class.What's with our governor?He must worry that Larry Gibson will hang another Eileen Rehrmann sign on the Pimlico cupola.
NEWS
By Anne Werps | May 13, 1998
RECENT news reports have been filled with accounts of the abuse and murder of 9-year-old Rita Fisher of Pikesville. Rita's unsmiling, swollen face stared out at us from newspapers and television screens, evoking horror and outrage that a child in our midst could be so maltreated. How could it happen was the echoing question. Give them the death penalty, was what people said after Rita's mother, sister and sister's boyfriend were convicted of Rita's murder.I have other questions, equally disturbing and difficult.
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