Jefferson Woman Enters Guilty Plea to 1st Degree Murder

FREDERICK – This morning in Frederick County Circuit Court, Hestina Lakeisha Harris, 24, of Jefferson, MD entered a guilty plea to 1st degree murder. Judge Scott Rolle sentenced Harris to life, suspending all but 60 years to serve. As part of the plea agreement, the State maintains the right to veto any modification of the sentence. Harris must serve 5 years of supervised probation upon release, with all standard conditions. “This has been a delicate situation where the victim’s family is also the family of the defendant. Quite frankly, we just haven’t seen eye to eye. Our obligation to the community always prevails, which is why we were not willing to go below the 60 year sentence,” stated State’s Attorney Charlie Smith. “Deputy State’s Attorney Kirsten Brown and Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Pearl worked very hard to gain a conviction in the first trial, and short of this substantial sentence, were willing to do so again,” Smith stated further.

On December 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm, the Frederick County Emergency Communication Center began receiving 911 calls regarding a stabbing in the 5400 block of Burkittsville Rd., Burkittsville, MD. Police and EMS were dispatched to the home.

The victim, Lillie Marie Morris, age 67, was discovered in the front yard of her home. A passing motorist saw Ms. Morris lying face down on the lawn attempting to lift herself off the ground. The

motorist turned around in her vehicle and parked in the Morris driveway. She honked her horn in an attempt to get the attention of someone in the home believing at first it was a medical emergency. She exited her car and attempted to call 911 as she approached the victim, Ms. Morris. The defendant, Hestina Harris, then exited from the home yelling in what the witness described as a “growl”. The motorist advised her to go inside and call 911. Witnesses stated that at no time did Harris render aid to the victim.

Lillie Morris was pronounced deceased by EMS personnel on scene, and her body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore where the manner of death was determined to be homicide. The cause of death was sharp force injuries to several of her major organs.

 

UPDATE: FREDERICK FAIR WAIVER HEARING #2 JUDGE ISSUES WRITTEN OPINION IN 15-YEAR-OLD’S CASE

FREDERICK, MD – In a written legal opinion released today, Frederick Circuit Court Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. ruled that the 15-year-old respondent charged in connection with the Great Frederick Fair attack on John Weed September 20, 2019, will remain in the juvenile system. The respondent is charged with manslaughter, 1st degree assault, and 2nd degree assault.

After reviewing Judge Nicklas’ ruling, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith commented, “Prosecutors Rebecca Clinton and Laura Wilt worked very hard to provide a compelling argument for waiver. However, we have to respect the Judge’s ruling while continuing to seek justice for Mr. Weed’s family. Smith added, “This has been a sad situation that unfortunately has divided our community. We will continue to fight for the victim’s family, while respecting the decision.”

A waiver hearing was held on February 21st in which the State and defense presented arguments. A waiver hearing is a hearing in which the Court decides whether to grant or deny the State’s request to waive the juvenile to adult court jurisdiction.    The State filed waiver petitions on both juveniles charged in this case which alleged that based on a number of factors the particular youths should be tried as adults, rather than in juvenile court.  The factors the court considers include the seriousness and nature of the offense, public safety, age of the youth, mental and physical condition, and the youth’s alleged amenability to juvenile rehabilitative measures.

Judge Julie Solt ruled that both respondents charged in the Frederick Fair incident would have closed courtroom waiver hearings, meaning anyone not directly involved in the case is not permitted inside.  Judges often close the courtroom to the public for juvenile proceedings to protect the confidentiality of matters about the youth.

 

 

Both respondents in this case have now had waiver hearings and it has been determined that they will remain in the juvenile system.

 

MIDDLETOWN MAN ENTERS ALFORD PLEA IN ANIMAL CRUELTY CASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 24, 2020

FREDERICK –Thomas Mackey, age 34, of Middletown, entered an Alford Plea to Aggravated Animal Cruelty before the Honorable Judge Dwyer of the Frederick County Circuit Court.  The State argued for a suspended sentence but Judge Dwyer sentenced the Defendant to Probation before Judgement and ordered three years supervised probation with the special conditions of mental health treatment, random checks by Animal Control, and prohibition to owning new animals for the period of probation.

On December 2, 2018, Frederick County Sheriff’s deputies and Animal Control officers were dispatched to the 5400 block of Urbana Pike for a 911 call reporting physical abuse of a guinea pig. Witnesses stated that Mackey was sitting inside a parked vehicle in the parking lot striking the animal and inserting his finger into its rectum. Medical evaluation found injuries to the guinea pig consistent with what witnesses and the defendant described to officers.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney Catherine McDermid.

UPDATE: FREDERICK FAIR CASE WAIVER HEARING #2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 21, 2020

Frederick, MD – Today in Frederick County Circuit Court, Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. presided over the waiver hearing of the 15-year-old respondent charged in the September 20, 2019 attack on John Marvin Weed at the Great Frederick Fair.  Closing arguments concluded at 6:35 p.m. and Judge Nicklas will issue his order by the end of next week. The 15-year-old is charged with manslaughter, 1st degree assault, and 2nd degree assault. During the waiver hearing today, Chief Prosecutors Laura Wilt (Juvenile), and Rebecca Clinton (Violent Crimes), made argument for the State.  A waiver hearing is a hearing in which the Court decides whether to grant or deny the State’s request to waive the juvenile to adult court jurisdiction.    The State filed a waiver petition on both juveniles which alleges that based on a number of factors the particular youths should be tried as adults, rather than in juvenile court.  The factors the court considers include the seriousness and nature of the offense, public safety, age of the youth, mental and physical condition, and the youth’s alleged amenability to juvenile rehabilitative measures.

 

Judge Julie Stevenson Solt denied the State’s waiver motion for the 16-year-old co-respondent in a written opinion February 18th. Therefore, the 16-year-old will remain in the juvenile system pending the conclusion of proceedings.

 

JUDGE DENIES STATE WAIVER MOTION

Frederick, MD – Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Julie Stevenson Solt issued a written opinion today, following a day-long waiver hearing on Wednesday February 12th for the 16-year-old respondent in the attack on John Marvin Weed September 20th at the Great Frederick Fair. The 16-year-old is charged with two counts of 2nd degree assault. During the waiver hearing last week, Chief Prosecutors Laura Wilt (Juvenile), and Rebecca Clinton (Violent Crimes), made argument for the State.  A waiver hearing is a hearing in which the Court decides whether to grant or deny the State’s request to waive the juvenile to adult court jurisdiction.    The State filed a waiver petition on both juveniles which alleges that based on a number of factors the particular youths should be tried as adults, rather than in juvenile court.  The factors the court considers include the seriousness and nature of the offense, public safety, age of the youth, mental and physical condition, and the youth’s alleged amenability to juvenile rehabilitative measures.

 

In her written opinion, Judge Solt denied the State’s waiver motion concluding that the 16-year-old respondent’s case should remain in the juvenile system. State’s Attorney Charlie Smith stated that, “Last week in a closed proceeding we argued for waiver, the defense argued against.  Despite this being a closed juvenile proceeding, I am still allowed to inform the public about the scheduling or result of any step in any litigation.  With that said, today Judge Solt issued an opinion denying our motion to waive the 16 year old into the adult system.  I cannot comment on the substance of her findings in her ruling.  Given the ruling, all further litigation with regard to this case will remain in juvenile, and by law, will remain confidential as long as the proceedings are closed.”

FREDERICK MAN INDICTED FOR MURDER, DRUG, AND WEAPONS CHARGES AFTER SIX-MONTH INVESTIGATION

FREDERICK, MD –  On January 24, 2020, the Frederick Grand Jury returned a fifty-count indictment against Lavonte Darnell Nash, age 27, of Frederick. Mr. Nash is accused of committing First Degree Murder, Attempted First Degree Murder, Retaliation Against a Witness, Use of a Firearm in a Crime of Violence, Illegal Possession of a Regulated Firearm, First Degree Assault, Conspiracy, Distribution of Narcotics, Possession With the Intent to Distribute Narcotics, and Participation in a Criminal Gang.  This afternoon in Frederick County Circuit Court, Nash waived his right to a bond review before Judge Richard Sandy, and thus remains held without bond.

Nash is charged with the premeditated murder of Gregory Knight on June 27, 2019, along with the attempted murder of another individual in connection with that incident. The Defendant is alleged to have distributed cocaine to Mr. Knight in May of 2017. Mr. Knight was to appear as a witness in court against Mr. Nash regarding the resulting drug related charges.

Additionally, the Defendant is charged for his role in two gang-related shootings that occurred on Market Street in downtown Frederick on August 31, 2019, and September 8, 2019.  Nash is charged with distribution of, and possession with intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances throughout the months of August and September of 2019.

The Defendant is alleged to be a member of “PA-32,” a criminal gang and drug-trafficking organization based in the city of Frederick, and operating in the surrounding areas.  The crimes charged are alleged to have been committed by Mr. Nash for the benefit of and in association with the gang.

The indictment is the culmination of a lengthy investigation led by the Frederick Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Unit and Criminal Investigation Section. These divisions, working in close coordination with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, obtained authorization from the Circuit Court for Frederick County to intercept communications over Mr. Nash’s telephone lines. In late September, multiple search warrants were executed at various locations as a result of the investigation. Mr. Nash was arrested at that time on drug related charges and has been held at the Frederick County Detention Center pending trial.

In response to the fifty-count indictment, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith reacted, “While I cannot comment on the case more specifically, I can say the scope of this case and the efforts put into it by all agencies make it one of the more complex in recent history.  I could easily see it taking three weeks to litigate.”

The investigation was truly a multi-agency effort, with vital support provided by the members of the Frederick HIDTA Group (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) to include the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Investigation Section, Homeland Security Investigations, the Maryland State Police, and the Brunswick Police Department.  Additionally, the investigation operated under the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network (MCIN), and a portion of the operational expenses were funded through this program.  The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) provides grant funding and strategic support to MCIN member sites to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations through inter-agency collaboration and data sharing to make Maryland safer.  The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention partially funded this project under sub-award number, MCIN-2020-0016.   All points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of any Maryland State office or agency.

The investigation remains ongoing into all incidents and the involvement of other parties. The Office of the State’s Attorney notes that an indictment is a charging document alleging criminal conduct and the defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

SILVER SPRING MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT 1st DEGREE ASSAULT FOR SHOTS FIRED INCIDENT

FREDERICK, MD –  This morning in Frederick County Circuit Court, Robert Antoine Shirley Jr., 21, of Silver Spring, MD pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit 1st Degree Assault, Unlawful Taking of a Motor Vehicle, and Violation of Probation. The Honorable Judge Julie Stevenson Solt sentenced Shirley to 10 years, suspending all but 12 months in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center for Conspiracy to Commit 1st Degree Assault. He was sentenced to 18 months consecutive for Violation of Probation. Following the completion of his incarceration, he must serve 3 years supervised probation, have no contact with the victims, and pay restitution for damage to a vehicle.

 

On June 20, 2019, Frederick Police responded to a firearm discharge in the 1300 Block of Taney Avenue. Officers were advised that an individual carrying a backpack walked up to a group of subjects standing in a parking lot and proceeded to open fire with a handgun. The subjects fled on foot to the rear of the Frederick Shopping Center, located at 1305 7th Street. Robert Shirley was one of four individuals witnesses and surveillance video captured as the group that was fired upon. After a brief verbal altercation near the McDonald’s between Shirley’s group and several males in a red Cadillac, shots were fired again, this time an exchange between the groups. Bullets struck several cars in the parking lot. Shirley was identified by witnesses and surveillance video as the driver leaving the scene in a silver Honda CR-V along with three male passengers. Detectives recovered the vehicle abandoned a short time later in the area of Glen Rock Drive. Upon further investigation, the vehicle had been reported stolen earlier that day. Detectives observed Shirley walking in an area nearby, and took him into custody after a short foot pursuit. The keys to the CR-V were recovered in Shirley’s pocket when he was apprehended.

In response to today’s plea and sentence, State’s Attorney Charlie Smith commented, “this was a dangerous shootout between two groups in a crowded shopping center. We are glad no one was seriously hurt in this incident.”

The State was represented by Deputy State’s Attorney Kirsten Brown and Assistant State’s Attorney Will Prunka.

Robert Antoine Shirley Jr.

ROCKVILLE SPA OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO OPERATING “HOUSE OF PROSTITUTION”

ROCKVILLE, MD –  This morning in Montgomery County Circuit Court before the Honorable Judge David Lease, Emily Zhang Lawrence, age 47, of Germantown, MD entered a guilty plea to operating a House of Prostitution.

 

At sentencing, the State and defense agree upon a one year suspended sentence and unsupervised probation. As a condition of her probation, the defendant will forfeit her business license and agrees not to open or operate any spa or massage business in the State of Maryland. Lawrence is scheduled to be sentenced June 2, 2020 at 8:45am.

 

On February 26, 2019, the Montgomery County Police Department initiated a 5-month-long investigation after receiving a web tip complaint that Rose’s Spa was being operated as a “house of prostitution.” The Spa’s posted hours were 10:30am to 10:00pm, seven days a week. During the course of the investigation, detectives learned that the defendant owned an apartment that she would use as a harboring place for the females that worked at the spa.  Investigators were able to establish a pattern of the defendant picking up the females in her maroon Honda Odyssey minivan from the apartment and transporting them to the spa.  The females indicated that they had responded to ads for masseuses and were trained by the defendant when they arrived in Maryland. During the course of the investigation, Detectives also interviewed several men leaving the spa who admitted to paying for and receiving illicit sex acts while inside the business.  Several of those individuals identified the defendant as the owner/manager of the spa and the individual who controlled and received the payments.  The defendant admitted to shutting down the spa for a week in April after she was tipped off by a client to the ongoing investigation.  However, shortly thereafter she re-opened the spa and continued to operate it as a house of prostitution.  During the investigation, $427,477 was seized that was tied to the proceeds from the spa as the defendant admitted that the spa was her only source of income.  Pursuant to the plea, the defendant will forfeit a total of $377,477 to the Montgomery County Police Department.

 

 

The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office served as special prosecutors in this case due to a conflict of interest in the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. The State was represented by Frederick SAO Chief Counsel Joyce King and Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsey Carpenter.

 

 

 

Former Frederick Pediatrician Indicted on 98 Counts

Frederick – On December 20th, the Frederick Grand Jury indicted Ernesto Cesar Torres, age 69, of Frederick on 98 counts of sex crimes charges. In a Circuit Court bond review this afternoon, Judge Theresa Adams ordered Torres held without bond. The 98 counts relate to allegations from an additional 19 victims. All of the victims were juveniles at the time of the alleged offenses. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for January 24th at 9am.

Torres was sentenced December 23rd to one year in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center for 4th Degree Sex Offense. He is currently serving that sentence. On April 26th, 2019, the 18-year old female victim, who was a lifelong patient of Dr. Torres, went to his office on Thomas Johnson Drive for a follow-up appointment to discuss her anxiety medication. It was during this appointment that the victim reported being sexually assaulted by Torres. Torres waived his right to a jury trial in late October. Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. presided over a three-day bench trial and ultimately on November 1st, found Torres guilty of 2nd Degree Assault and 4th Degree Sex Offense. A 4th Degree Sex Offense merges with 2nd Degree Assault and therefore the maximum penalty in this case was a 1 year sentence. Torres will receive credit for time served on home detention since May 7th.

Additionally, Torres is scheduled for a trial to begin March 30th. In that case, a combined 49 sex crimes charges are alleged involving 12 victims.

An indictment is a charging document alleging criminal conduct. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

FREDERICK PEDIATRICIAN ERNESTO TORRES SENTENCED

Frederick – This morning, Frederick Circuit Court Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. sentenced Ernesto Cesar Torres, age 69, of Frederick to 1 year in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. Torres waived his right to a jury trial in late October. Judge Nicklas presided over a three-day bench trial and ultimately on November 1st, found Torres guilty of 2nd Degree Assault and 4th Degree Sex Offense. A 4th Degree Sex Offense merges with 2nd Degree Assault and therefore the maximum penalty in this case was a 1 year sentence. Torres will receive credit for time served on home detention since May 7th.

State’s Attorney Charlie Smith commented, “We felt that the totality of facts warranted a guilty for 2nd degree rape in this case. We respectfully disagreed with Judge Nicklas’ trial verdict, but understand his ruling.  We were relieved to see Torres get the maximum one year straight sentence and agree with Judge Nicklas that one year punishment in this case is simply not enough.  This victim will have to live with the emotional scars of Torres’ actions for the rest of her life.”

On April 26th, 2019, the 18-year old female victim, who was a lifelong patient of Dr. Torres, went to his office on Thomas Johnson Drive for a follow-up appointment to discuss her anxiety medication. It was during this appointment that the victim reported being sexually assaulted by Torres.

The State was represented by Chief Assistant State’s Attorney Tammy Leache and Chief Counsel Joyce King.