- 1 Crime Problems in Aspen Hill
- 1.1 Current Crime Trends
- 1.2 Mental Healthcare Crisis / Homelessness Crisis
- 1.3 Historical Crime Trends
- 1.4 High Profile Cases
- 1.4.1 1970s
- 1.4.2 Early 1980s
- 1.4.3 1986
- 1.4.4 1997
- 1.4.5 2001
- 1.4.6 2002
- 1.4.7 2004
- 1.4.8 2005
- 1.4.9 2007
- 1.4.10 2008
- 1.4.11 2009
- 2 Police Response to Crime Trends
- 3 Community Response to Crime
Crime Problems in Aspen Hill
Aspen Hill is both one of the most "diverse" communities in Montgomery County, and one of the lowest-average-income communities in Montgomery County. It is also characterized by some of the highest prevalence of rentals, high-density rentals, foreclosures of housing acquired under the so-called "liar loan" and "adjustable percentage rate" mortgages.
For certain types of crime, notably theft-from-auto, burglary, robbery and armed-robbery, Aspen Hill ranks high on the list of trouble spots for both Montgomery County and the State of Maryland. Please see also the Mid-County Neighborhood Initiative.
Current Crime Trends
Please see a mapping of local crime trends from CrimeReports.Com but be advised that this is automatically generated from the logs of police dispatch systems. This only shows reported crime that was dispatched from the 911 operating center. This does not at all reflect crime reported through informal or confidential-informant channels. Also keep in mind that the vast majority of crimes are those perpetrated by criminals against other criminals, and these crimes are never reported into the system generating these maps.
Montgomery County's most serious crime problem right now is street robberies of the type in which a group of people will approach an individual and rob them of cash and/or cellphones. The number two problem -- less serious than street robberies and far more prevalent -- is burglaries of vehicles, generally resulting in loss of GPS, computer, MP3 player, or comparable equipment, according to police chief J Thomas Manger (Klepott, Freeman, "Street robberies main crime problem in Montgomery, police chief says", DC Examiner, July 21 2008, downloaded 2008 July 21).
Burglaries appear to be on the rise all across the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area. Illegal aliens are suspected to be contributing to the increase in burglary (Klopott, Freeman, "Washington-area police report wave of burglaries, cite illegal immigrants", DC Examiner, June 16 2008, downloaded 2008 June 16).
Due to the rising cost of fuel and the downturn in economic sectors heavily reliant on unskilled labor of immigrants (legal or otherwise), it's certain that unemployment is rising in that community.
Among other recent crime trends is a proliferation of "tagging", or street-gang graffiti.
There are a variety of gangs in Aspen Hill.
Gang activity in Aspen Hill is characterized by "local affiliation". According to one local gang expert, a growing trend in area gangs is a mixed-race, loosely organized collections of youth that coalesce because they attend the same school or live in the same neighborhood, with the organization likely to change names over time (Aratani, Lori, and de Vise, "Youth Gang Reflects Shift In Origins, Membership", Washington Post, March 3 2007, downloaded 2008 May 27). This is comparable to the District of Columbia phenomenon of "local crews" in which typically there is no affiliation or even representation of affiliation with gangs of national or transnational scope.
National scope gangs as well as transnational scope gangs are reportedly making inroads into Montgomery County and the rest of the region, but County police characterize Aspen Hill's gang problems to be mostly "home grown".
Transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha ("MS-13") are properly the province of Police and Intelligence-Community Partnerships.
Mental Healthcare Crisis / Homelessness Crisis
It is unclear how much of the crime problem here in Aspen Hill relates to, or is affected by, the general crisis in outpatient mental healthcare in the State of Maryland funding system, or the comparable crisis in the Montgomery County mental healthcare system. In any case, the current economic crisis -- as of mid-June 2008 -- is contributing to increased levels of both homelessness and home-overcrowding, both of which raise levels of stress in those affected.
Thus, there may be a very solid basis to any perceptions that Aspen Hill is overrun with the insane. When insanity becomes violence, or provokes a violent response, it contributes to our crime problem.
The vast majority of people with even severe mental illness are no more prone to violence than are those blessed with high-function levels of sound cognition and emotional stability. Yet they are frequently the victims of poorly-reasoned abuse or violence, which also contributes to our crime problem. To the degree that the government is unable to remedy this, tends to perpetuate our endless struggle against crime and violence.
There is some mostly-anecdotal evidence, and much inference, which may lead some to believe that there are people out there trying to impart a particular worldview to people who are already rather severely mentally ill, to transform them into a sort of gang with a shared delusional system. This has been known to result in Dust Wars and other situations which ultimately resolve as a sort of dialog between the opposing causes of Plausible Deniability versus Reasonable Suspicion.
Historical Crime Trends
Historically, crime trends in Aspen Hill were of fairly low incidence from roughly the time of first building until the late 1960s. Little non-domestic violence appears in the police record until the 1970s, when the first major divergence of subcultures led to interschool fighting of a rare and sporadic nature, and to disputes and fisticuffs between "jocks", "neats", "freaks" and "grits". Respectively, these were "athletic types", "academic achievers", "longhairs" and "greasers", where "longhairs" had the reputation of using illegal drugs, and "greasers" had the reputation of using hair-oil and dressing in late 1950s fashions and engaging in underage drinking. Aside from subcultural clashes mostly between whites, there was little crime other than significant amounts of drunk driving, domestic violence, burglary, and drug violations.
As time went on, increasing ethnic diversity brought surprisingly little race-based animosity. Crime continued to be mostly crimes against property and drug violations. Yet during the late 1980s and the early 1990s, talk began to circulate about increasing tensions between various US-native ethnic subgroups, and also within and between various communities of the foreign-born.
High Profile Cases
The Unsolved Death of Kathy Lynn Beatty
Please see the comprehensive Washington Post coverage (downloaded 2008 June 13).
The Police Investigation
"On July 25,1975, 15-year-old Kathy Beatty was found unconscious in a wooded area in the rear of the Kmart department store located at Georgia Avenue and Connecticut Avenue in Aspen Hill, Maryland. The hospital examination revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and hit on the head with a blunt instrument. Kathy never regained consciousness and died on August 8, 1975.(Montgomery County Department of Police "Cold Case" website, downloaded 2008 May 26)".
As of May 2008, this case is still unsolved, although the Cold Case website states that two witnesses claim that they saw two white males, mid to late teens, crossing Georgia Avenue carrying a female eastward towards the 7-11 store and continuing onward towards a wooded area used by teenagers as a "party place".
July 25, 1975, was a Friday morning; the night that Kathy was last seen alive was a Thursday. The popular band "Yes" was touring and the concert was a "must-see" for most of the neighborhood's teens and young adults. Many, if not most, of Kathy Beatty's peers attended the concert at the Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland. Thus, those who attended and were seen and remembered by fellow attendees had an alibi.
Prior to this event, Aspen Hill had been mostly regarded as an all-American low-crime outer suburb where people left their doors unlocked and didn't worry much if the kids were out most of the night. This death, characterized as a murder by a suspect (or suspects) as yet to be identified and presumably still at large, cast a shadow over the neighborhood, one which seems only to deepen as time goes on.
As of November 2010, we are unaware of any significant new leads in the case. As is typical in such investigations, very little information has been released to the public at large.
Cold Case Activity
This investigation is ongoing. Please see the Kathy Beatty Investigation website.
Considerable discussion has been ongoing over the years at the "WebSleuths" discussion forum on the Beatty case. While many of these "websleuths" have their own various suggestions about likely suspects -- usually notorious serial killers or serial rapists with similar tastes in victims or similar methods of operations -- the professional investigators seem less than fully convinced. It is widely believed that the professional investigators attribute this to someone either frequenting the community, or actually residing here or very nearby.
More discussion has occurred over time among those who lived here at the time.
The "Aspen Hill Rapist"
A series of some 16 rapes in the Aspen Hill area in 1981 and 1982 led to the arrest and conviction of one Tim Buzbee, also known as "the Aspen Hill Rapist". Buzbee was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences plus 50 years, and at last report was still incarcerated at the Jessup state penitentiary. Buzbee's crimes were particularly notorious, as he frequently entered the homes of his victims ("Buzbee delays parole hearing", Parish, Warren, Gazette, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, as downloaded 2008 May 25).
As of October 15, 2009, Tim Buzbee (52 years of age at the time of this writing) was charged with four additional counts of rape in Montgomery County from 1977 to 1980. The new charges stem from DNA evidence matches. Buzbee's original conviction was long before the first admission of DNA evidence in 1987, and DNA was recently sampled from Buzbee in April 2009 ("Convicted rapist charged in four additional rapes in Montgomery: Police, prosecutors say DNA helped link decades-old cases to Timothy Buzbee", Carrick, Nathan, Gazette, October 15, 2009, downloaded 2009 October 16).
On February 27, 2012, Tim Buzbee plead guilty to three of the four additional counts of rape before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Nelson W. Rupp ("‘Aspen Hill Rapist’ pleads guilty to three more rapes from late 1970s: Man already serving concurrent life sentences", Arias, Jeremy, "Gazette", February 29, 2012, downloaded 2012 February 29).
Already serving three concurrent life sentences plus 50 years at the Jessup State Penitentiary, Buzbee was sentenced on March 1, 2012, to an additional two consecutive life sentences, and one concurrent life sentence. Judge Rupp remarked "Just so it’s clear, Mr. Buzbee [...] my intent in imposing this sentence here today is that you never, ever be free again." ("‘Aspen Hill Rapist’ Buzbee sentenced to 3 life terms", Morse, Dan, "the Washington Post", March 2, 2012, downloaded 2012 March 2)
The Buzbee case is of particular interest to criminologists, as most "spree" serial rapists start their string of sexual assaults and do not stop until they are captured or killed. Buzbee's case is exceptional because he started one string of sexual assaults not long after the Kathy Beatty case (there is at the time of this writing no demonstrated relation between Buzbee and the Beatty case) and then "went dark", only to resume nearly 4 years later.
Keith Warren Found Hanged
July 31, 1986: Keith Warren, a recent high school graduate and well-liked local boy, was found hanging from a small tree in a wooded area. Despite the elaborate arrangement of the rope, which was tied to the base of another tree, the County deputy medical examiner ruled the death a suicide at the scene and Warren's body was sent to a funeral home for embalming, without any autopsy. Mary Couey, Keith's mother, believes that Keith was the victim of foul play. An episode of Unsolved Mysteries has several interviews with family members who allege that in the days before the discovery of Keith Warren's body, a number of suspicious black males from outside of the neighborhood had repeatedly contacted friends and family searching for Keith Warren. This is compounded by allegations of police suppression of evidence. April 9, 1992, Mary Couey found a plain vanilla envelope inside the screen door of her house, containing 5 crime-scene photos showing Warren hanging by the neck... allegedly wearing clothing not his own, according to his mother.
Investigative reporter Del Walters characterized the case as "a travesty of errors" and inconsistent between actual evidence and the summary reporting in official files.
After exhumation and autopsy, forensic pathologist Isadore Mihalakis MD declared that hanging was not likely the cause of death and that a finding of "suicide... is medically not supportable...", pointing out a fatal level of 1,1,1-trichlorethylene ("TCE"), a solvent commonly found in glues. It's occasionally used in embalming fluid, which was the explanation then offered by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Dr Mihalakis disagrees, pointing out the distribution throughout the tissues as being not consistent except with ingestion (or injection) while alive, and adds that there were two other (unspecified) chemicals present which could not be accounted for by embalming processes.
About this time, one Mark Findley -- one of the young men allegedly searching for Warren about the time of Warren's death -- also died. Official reports allege that Mr Findley died when his bicycle jumped a curb and he landed on his face, but other reporting declares that Mr Findley's condition didn't match the accident, and was more consistent with being struck by a car or hit in the face with a baseball bat. (Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack, unknown broadcast date, downloaded 2010 January 25). See also "Police chiefs decline to review the Warren 'suicide'", (author unknown, Gazette, May 4, 1994.
Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr
Samuel Sheinbein (wikipedia article) and Aaron Benjamin Needle, killed Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr. in September, and then dismembered and attempted to cremate his body, hiding his remains in a vacant house. Sheinbein escaped to Israel where he was tried and sentenced. Needle committed suicide.
Rape and Murder of Kacey Brown, Attempted Murder of Christopher McCallum
On November 21, Tyree Dwane Echols, Sr, age 21, knocked on a door in the Aspen Crossing Apartments at 14210 Grand Pre Road. 20-year-old Christopher McCallum answered and let him in. They used to play video games together.
Echols pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun and ordered McCallum, and his housemate Kacey Brown, age 20, to undress and crawl around the floor of the apartment. Echols robbed them of $62.00 in cash and demanded the car keys and got them.
Echols then ordered McCallum under a mattress in the bedroom, and then raped Brown on top of that mattress. Once he was done, Echols discharged the shotgun and hit Brown in the head. Echols then threw two pillows over McCallum's head and then shot him as well, in the back of the neck. McCallum survived by playing dead. Brown died on the scene, survived by her two children, at this time one aged 3 years and one aged 10 months (Echols trial begins Testimony reveals details of crime, Curreri, Frank , Montgomery Gazette, August 13, 1998, downloaded 2009 November 18 ).
In a bizarre twist Echols son, Tyree Echols Jr, age 15, would be arrested on November 16 2009 for the November 14th rape of an Aspen Hill woman near the intersection of Grand Pre Road and Bel Pre Road, a mere stone's throw from the Aspen Crossing Apartments where his father had raped and murdered one person and tried unsuccessfully to kill another. Echols Jr would have been 3 years old at the time his father became a murdering rapist.
Tyree Echols, Sr, is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for the rape and murder of Kacey Brown, and an additional life sentence for the attempted murder of Christopher McCallum.
Sue Wen Stottmeister
Sue Wen Stottmeister was found murdered on the Rock Creek Hiker Biker Trail. Albert W. Cook Jr. pled guilty after his capture and is serving life without parole. This is a case of freakish weirdness, as Cook had been living for some years at the corner of Aspen Hill Road and Arctic Avenue without anyone in the neighborhood even knowing that he was there. Extremely reclusive, he evidently crept along overgrown fence-lines through the property of a neighboring church and school to access the wooded areas around the stream park. Ms Stottmeister was evidently a victim of opportunity rather than of planning, and a small shrine marks the place where she was found. Cook came to the attention of authorities weeks after Stottmeister's murder only because he assaulted a woman at a nearby bus-stop. (Parish, Warren, "Trail phones to be replaced", Gazette, Oct. 26, 2005, downloaded 2008 May 25).
The "Aspen Hill Snipers"
The "Aspen Hill Snipers" launched into a multi-state murder spree that hit Aspen Hill on October 2, 2002. John Allen Muhammad (Wikipedia article), a document forger and identity theft enabler of an illegal alien minor, Lee Boyd Malvo (Wikipedia article), drove around town in a used police car with a hole cut in the trunk and fired on civilian after civilian. Despite the fact that I personally reported to officers that I witnessed this vehicle and the occupants and reported them as "serious trouble from out of town", then-Chief of Police Charles A Moose declared "only a white man could have done this", clearly expressing the utter inflexibility and dogma-bound nature of the County Department of Police. After spending millions of dollars stopping every single "white box truck" encountered in the County, and both surveillance and questioning of every single member of the National Rifle Association in the entire County, the killers were brought to ground by an alert motorist who observed their plates in a public InterState rest area and who promptly called police. Despite the fact that Malvo had called the FBI to turn himself in, and was ignored by the FBI, and also despite the police focus on middle-aged white males, the illegal alien serial killer child Malvo and his identity-theft enabler and Army misfit Muhammad were eventually brought to Justice.
John Allen Muhammad was executed by lethal injection in the Commonwealth of Virginia, November 10, 2009, in the matter of the capital murder of Dean H. Meyers, who was shot down in Manassas, Virginia.
Kidnapping and Extortion
February 7, 2004, police officers observed a southbound convoy of vehicles speeding through Aspen Hill on Georgia Avenue near Hewitt Avenue. One of the vehicles, an Eagle Vision, was wearing tags stolen from an Oldsmobile. Officers pursued, and the Vision wrecked in front of the MNCPPC Park Police Headquarters on Layhill Road. Officers arrested the passenger and pursued the driver, who had bailed out after he wrecked. The other vehicle, a Dodge Durango, was reported by radio as BOLO ("be on the look-out") and was later spotted in downtown Silver Spring. In the back of the Vision was a man, Camp Springs MD businessman Ashvin Patel, beaten and bound with duct-tape ("Men charged with kidnapping, extortion; police find victim in car", Uy, Erin, Montgomery Gazette, February 11, 2004 downloaded 2008 November 29).
Anthony J. Robertson, 25, of Temple Hills, Jelani A. Johnson, 26, of Greenbelt and Quentin McQueen, 24, of the District of Columbia were arrested and charged with conspiracy, kidnapping, extortion, and possession of a handgun. According to a press release from the Department of Police, evidence links this case to a house in the 2800 block of Blue Spruce Lane off of Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill ("Suspects await criminal trial for storeowner kidnapping", Lowe, Scott M. Jr, Montgomery Gazette, February 18, 2004 downloaded 2008 November 29).
In a case straight out of the handbook for gang-stalking, it seems that the victim was abducted from his home in the 4400 block of Camp Springs when the suspects produced a fake FBI badge ("Area suspects await fate after kidnapping charge", Lowe, Scott M. Jr, Montgomery Gazette, February 19, 2004 downloaded 2008 November 29).
Jelani Johnson was convicted of kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and armed robbery. He received 35 years in prison and five years probation. Anthony Robertson was convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping and is sserving 30 years. Quentin McQueen is serving 30 years for kidnapping and use of a handgun in a violent crime (""Man sentenced for role in abduction, ransom case, Uy, Erin, Montgomery Gazette, September 7, 2005 downloaded on 2008 November 29).
Bounty Hunters Rampage
After concluding a two-month investigation, in yet-another case right out of the gang-stalking playbook, Montgomery County Police arrested four professional and licensed Bounty Hunters on charges of false-imprisonment, impersonating a police officer, burglary, and a variety of other offenses ("Four bounty hunters charged with false imprisonment", Blum, Agnes, Montgomery Gazette, February 18 2004 downloaded 2008 November 29).
These men were all employed by the Capital Fugitive Recovery Agency, an outfit based in Prince George's County, Maryland.
According to police and to prosecutors, these bounty-hunters -- and possibly others, as well -- were playing fast and loose with the rules of their profession, which in Maryland was nearly unregulated at the time. According to assistant State's Attorney Gayle Marie Brown Driver -- as reported in the Montgomery Gazette, "...the four men terrorized a Brazilian community in the Bel Pre Road neighborhood while seeking, among others, an illegal immigrant from Brazil who escaped from them in a previous capture..." and "...kicked down doors, stormed into homes with shotguns and rifles and detained victims -- not related to the man they were seeking -- in their own homes at gunpoint..." Allegedly, most of the people harassed were third-parties ("Officials seek tougher guidelines on bounty hunters", Uy, Erin, Montgomery Gazette, May 12, 2004 downloaded 2008 November 29).
Ms Driver sought to increase the regulatory control over Bounty Hunters and other outside-the-regulations Gang Stalkers via appeal to the State Legislature. It is unclear at this time whether or not such activity is effectively regulated in the State of Maryland. See also our entry on Organized Crime, Stalking. The Brazilian Immigrant community in Aspen Hill will quickly tell you from personal experience that this sort of thing definitely happens, and has happened to them.
Malik McCoy Beaten to Death by Gang
Malik McCoy was beaten to death by a gang in the 14000 block of Valleyfield Drive, Friday June 4, 2004.
Montgomery County Police Captain John Fitzgerald categorized this as "...very violent, personal crime. The kind that is very brutal" ("Teen beaten to death by group of youths, police say", Lewis, John, Montgomery Gazette, June 9, 2004. Downloaded 2008 November 29).
After an incident occurring at the deeply troubled John F. Kennedy High School in Glenmont, MD, where both McCoy and one Jalani Parker were sent to the principal's office, Parker began seeking out allies to beat McCoy, eventually recruiting to his cause the following individuals: two cousins, Jonathan Usama Dubbaneh and George Hanna Haddad, as well as Dante Farrah, Sovannary Yoeun, Jerrold Chandler, and Tyrone Andre Nichols.
According to the police, all seven stalked McCoy to where he was visiting his friend Christopher Honore, incited and lured Honore and McCoy outside, where they were waylaid and assaulted. Police further alleged that Haddad threw the first punch at McCoy, and was joined in beating McCoy by Farrah. Honore was assailed by Chandler, Dubbaneh and Yoeun. McCoy later died of severe blunt force trauma to the head ("Members of 'Gang' Attacked Teenager, Prosecutor Says", Lewis, Fred, Montgomery Gazette, June 16, 2004; "Three Plead Guilty in Fatal Beating of 16-Year Old Silver Spring Boy", Uy, Erin, Montgomery Gazette, February 9, 2005 both downloaded on 2008 November 29).
In the trial of Farrah, Assistant State's Attorney John McCarthy alleged that Farrar kicked McCoy "in the head as Haddad straddled him".
In a previous interview by Gazette reporters with State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, this was not an "official" action of a street gang, but that coincidentally some of those participating in the assault were allegedly members of the "TRG" or "Tiny Rascals" gang, which originated in California allegedly among Cambodian/Laotian refugees. Local police officials cast doubt on this theory ("Members of 'Gang' Attacked Teenager, Prosecutor Says", Lewis, Fred, Montgomery Gazette, June 16, 2004).
Dante Farrah was found guilty of manslaughter. Sovannary Yoeun and George Hanna Haddad plead guilty to manslaughter and second-degree assault. Tyrone Andre Nichols plead guilty to conspiracy for commit first degree and second degree assault. Jerrold Chandler plead guilty of manslaughter and second-degree assault.
Jalani Parker and Jonathan Usama Dubbaneh were tried in juvenile court.
Unsolved Murder of Syed Rizvi
On March 1, 2005, Syed Rizvi, a cashier at the Bel Pre Mobil gas station, was murdered during a robbery. Despite surrendering the money with no resistance, the robber shot Rizvi in the head with no apparent provocation. The robber fled and has never been identified or apprehended ("Worker Slain in Aspen Hill Holdup", Shaver, Katherine Washington Post, March 2, 2005; Page B01 downloaded 2009 March 25)
Feb 24, 2007, 3700 block of Bel Pre Road, a group of youths multiply stabbed and severely beat a mentally challenged man not long after they stabbed two other youths multiple times in the back at Westfield Shopping Town in Wheaton's Central Business District (Aratani, Lori, and de Vise, "Youth Gang Reflects Shift In Origins, Membership", Washington Post, March 3 2007, downloaded 2008 May 27). Several of the youths were indicted for serious crimes (Gawgry, Kristina, "Five more indicted in gang-related stabbings", Gazette, April 18, 2007 , downloaded 2008 May 27).
Botched Gang Firebombing
Jan 8 2008, an alleged firebombing in the 13800 block of Parkland Drive was allegedly perpetrated by Hugo Soto-Moran, 20, of Silver Spring; Edwin Crespo, 21, of Silver Spring; and Miguel Angel Castillo, 20, of Rockville. Allegedly this was a gang-related incident (Londono, Ernesto, "Gang Members Threw Molotov Cocktails at House, Officials Say", B3, Washington Post, January 12, 2008, downloaded on 2008 May 26).
Soto-Moran, Castillo, and several of their associates were indicted by a Federal grand jury on November 19, 2009 as members of the "Latin Kings" street gang. Charges include conspiracy to arson, conspiracy to murder, and comparable charges. Investigations are ongoing (Nineteen Alleged Latin Kings Gang Members Indicted on Federal Racketeering Conspiracy Charge: Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Commit Murders, Assaults, Robberies and Arson, Office of Public Affairs, US Department of Justice, press release, November 19 2009, downloaded 2009 November 20).
Gerald Lacayo Murdered
Gerald Lacayo was stabbed to death in a building in the Aspen Hill Apartments, allegedly by Calvin Fitzgerald Currica, 22, of Clarksburg, Harrison Jay Bryant, 20, of Williamsburg, Va., and Randall Anthony Francis, 20, of New Carrollton (Chadwick, Melissa A., "Men indicted in carjackings, murder", Gazette, March 26, 2008, downloaded 2008 May 25).
On 2008 November 21, Calvin Currica was sentenced to 85 years for his part in this murder (Morse, Dan, "Two Men Sentenced In Deadly Crime Spree", Washington Post, Page B3, November 22, 2008 downloaded 2008 11 22). Lacayo's murder was only one act in a crime spree which included several robberies and carjackings. Bryant was sentenced to 70 years.
Carjacking, Kidnapping, Robbery
August 24, a 24-year old man was getting out of his car in the 14100 block of Grand Pre Road when four men approached him. One man displayed a handgun and the men forced the driver back into his car. He was ordered to drive to the Bank of America in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center and withdraw money from the ATM. After repeated death threats, the car's driver was let out of the car and the gunman took the wheel and drove off with the car and his companions.
After pleading guilty on Feb 5, 2009, Larry Anthony Ayers was sentenced April 28, 2009, by county Circuit Court Judge William J. Rowan III. The sentences were as follows: 30 years each, on charges of armed carjacking and kidnapping and the mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. Additional suspects awaiting capture and/or trial include an unnamed Silver Spring suspect age 16; Jamal William Cooper, 17, and Anthony Lawrence McCombs, 17. Both Cooper and McCombs are listed as "no fixed address". As of May 7 2009, McCombs is still at large (Brachfeld, Melissa, "Man sentenced to 65 years for Aspen Hill carjacking", Montgomery Gazette, May 6 2009, downloaded 2009 May 7).
"Freezer Babies" Case
The bodies of two children were discovered on 2008 September 27 in a freezer in the basement of a Calvert County Maryland home, when police arrived to investigate a case of child abuse, pursuant to a complaint by a child who claimed to have escaped from a locked room in a home rented by one Renee D Bowman.
Further investigation discovered that she had been residing at 13118 Vandalia Court in Aspen Hill. As of 2008 September 30, police were excavating on that property after cadaver-sniffing dogs alerted to a bare patch of ground in the back yard (Md. Mother Jailed After Bodies Of 2 Children Found in Freezer, Zapotoski, Matt et al, Washington Post, Page A01, Sept 30, 2008, downloaded 2008 Sept 30).
The State Medical Examiner's Office announced in mid-December 2008 that the two children had been asphyxiated (Medical examiner says former Aspen Hill girls died of asphyxiation, Montgomery County Police continue to investigate deaths as homicide, Brachfeld, Melissa J., Montgomery Gazette, December 17, 2008, downloaded 2008 Dec 19). It is not yet certain exactly when the asphyxiations occurred.
Montgomery County police obtained a warrant charging Renee D Bowman with murder, charging her with killing her adopted children in May of 2006. The cause of death is believed to be asphyxiation ("Md. Woman Is Charged In Deaths Of 2 Girls: Children Were Found In Adoptive Mother's Freezer Last Year", Morse, Dan, Washington Post, Page B01, March 30, 2009, downloaded 2009 March 30) .
Bowman pled guilty to child abuse charges in September 2009, and was sentenced to the maximum of 25 years in prison on January 8, 2010, by Calvert County Circuit Court Judge Marjorie Clagett, who was reported to have said "n 14 years on the bench, this is the worst case I have seen. ... Punishment is necessary; I don't know if rehabilitation is possible. ... I cannot find any reason not to impose the maximum sentence of 25 years" ("Former Aspen Hill woman gets 25 years for abusing daughter: Bowman faces murder charges next month", Renneisen, Bob, Montgomery Gazette, January 13, 2010, downloaded 2010 January 25).
On March 22, 2010, Renee D Bowman -- now age 44 -- was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences, to be served concurrently with the 25-year sentence for child abuse to which she pled guilty in January 2010 in a different court. This present sentence came from Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Algeo. As part of the sentencing, Algeo said: "You said you are sorry, but I see no remorse. No empathy, caring, nothing. Emptiness. No guilt, no accountability. [...] You sent these two young, innocent children in the dawn of their lives to the death chamber [...] But to you that option is not available" (Woman who killed girls, kept bodies in freezer to spend life in jail without parole: Former Aspen Hill woman found guilty of murdering two adopted daughters, abusing a third, Carrick, Nathan, Montgomery Gazette, March 22, 2010, downloaded 2010 March 23).
Hewitt and Georgia Bus Stop Stabbing, March
About 11AM in the morning of Wednesday, March 11, 2009, Henry Ortiz, aged 20, was waiting at a bus-shelter on the southbound side of Georgia Avenue across from the intersection with Hewitt Avenue. Allegedly he was approached by two teenagers and the three displayed gang sign hand gestures, and began fighting behind the bus shelter. During the fight, apparently all fell down the embankment behind the bus-shelter and Ortiz tried to climb back up to the street level, but was prevented from escaping by one of the teenagers. Police allege that Ortiz was stabbed multiple times by one Alvin Rey Valdez. A bystander managed to capture images with a cellphone camera. When police arrived, Ortiz was bleeding from multiple stab wounds. He was transported to hospital and remained unconscious after apparently suffering brain-death from complications of exsanguination, and was reported to have died on Friday, March 20, 2009.
Police investigation resulted in the charging as adults of Alvin Rey Valdez, 16, and Jose Romero, 14, both of the 3500 block of Harrell Street in Wheaton, with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit first-degree assault ("Two teenagers denied bail in Aspen Hill stabbing: Prosecutor says victim has brain damage", Brachfeld, Melissa, Montgomery Gazette, March 16, 2009 (downloaded 2009 March 17)). Both were denied bail by Judge William G. Simmons at the request of assistant state's attorney for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office Jeffrey Wennar who characterized the defendants as flight risks, and in violation of terms of probation in juvenile court after a series of burglaries dating back to 2007, which they perpetrated as a team.
Ortiz was allegedly a member of the MS-13 street gang, and the alleged perpetrators are allegedly associated with a gang called "Lil R" or "Lil Raza".
Valdez plead guilty, in a plea bargain deal, to second-degree murder, on August 19, 2009, and other charges were dropped. He is sentenced to serve no more than 15 years ("Wheaton teenager pleads guilty to second-degree murder in stabbing", Brachfeld, Melissa J, Gazette, August 20, 2009 downloaded 2009 August 23).
Romero, only age 14 at the time of the attack, was originally charged as an adult and pleasd guilty to that charge, but has been sentenced as a juvenile. He is to be confined at an undisclosed youth facility in Pennsylvania until age 21, or if found fit for release by the operators of that facility ("Wheaton teen sentenced to 15 years in jail in fatal stabbing: Second Wheaton juvenile sent to youth detention center in Pennsylvania", Brachfeld, Melissa J, Montgomery Gazette, November 20, 2009 doenloaded 2009 November 21).
Lamour Angela Harrison Murdered
On August 10, 2009, Lamour Angela Harrison, was stabbed to death in front of her teenage daughter during a domestic dispute at her home in the 3600 block of Bel Pre Road. Her husband, Claude A Harrison was arrested at the scene and charged with first degree homicide.
In late February 2010, Harrison was found guilty by a jury. He is scheduled to be on sentenced April 22, 2010 by Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr (Aspen Hill man found guilty of fatal stabbing, Parcher, Amber, Montgomery Gazette, March 3, 2010, downloaded 2010 March 3).
On April 22, 2010, Harrison was sentenced to life in prison, with a possibility of parole. Harrison's attorney, public defender Brian Shefferman, pled for leniency: "He's had no criminal record. He's not someone who's had a history of bad behavior. He repeated to officers many times that he made a huge, huge mistake" (Aspen Hill man gets life in prison for killing his wife, Liu, Mimi, Montgomery Gazette, April 28, 2010, downloaded 2010 April 28).
"Like Father, Like Son" Rape Case
On November 14, a 24-year-old woman got off of the bus near the intersection of Grand Pre Road and Bel Pre Road. As she walked towards her apartment, an assailant grabbed her from behind and forced her into a wooded area. She was robbed of some cash as well as being sexually assaulted and choked as well as beaten. Eventually the woman was able to drive off her attacker, who fled across Bel Pre Road.
On November 16, in the vicinity of Georgia Avenue and Shorefield Road which leads to the Wheaton Regional Park, police arrested one Tyree Echols, Jr, age 15.
This is quite bizarre, as Tyree Echols, Sr, is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the rape and murder of one Kacey Brown, a young mother of two, and the attempted murder of on Christopher McCallum, in the same 1997 incident. Echols, Jr, would have been only about 3 years old at the time his father, then 21, committed his ghastly crimes (Teenager charged as adult with rape, assault: District Court judge denies bail of 15-year-old, Brachfeld, Melissa J and Carrick, Nathan, Montgomery Gazette, November 18, 2009, downloaded 2009 November 18).
In late July 2010, Echols pled guilty and faces up to 18 years in prison (Wheaton teen pleads guilty to attempted first-degree rape), Liu, Mimi, Montgomery Gazette, August 4, 2010, downloaded 2010 August 4).
October 1, 2010: Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr. sentenced Echols -- 16 years old at this date -- to the maximum prison sentence of 50 years, leaving all but 18 years suspended. Five years of probation will follow. Echols has also been recommended for treatment at a mental health facility, Patuxent Correctional Mental Health Center (Wheaton teen sentenced to 18 years in prison for attempted rape: 16-year-old recommended for treatment at Correctional Mental Health Center in Jessup, Lui, Mimi, Montgomery Gazette, October 14, 2010, downloaded 2010 October 14).
Police Response to Crime Trends
Montgomery County's Department of Police ("DOP") Fourth District administration is responsible for the majority of law-enforcement in Aspen Hill.
Shortly after the Aspen Hill Snipers' rampage through the Greater Washington DC Metropolitan Area, Chief Charles A. Moose "moved on" under some degree of scandal. His eventual replacement was Chief J. Thomas Manger, formerly of the Fairfax County Virginia police department, taking office in Montgomery County in January 2004. Chief Manger observed sometime after his assumption of duties that Montgomery's police force had one of the lowest number of officers per-capita of any major urbanized area. Subsequent increases in staffing have been ongoing. Yet considering both the size of the population and the diversity of that population, there is probably a significantly deficient staffing. Some 1150 sworn officers and about 550 civilian staff must cover about 950000 residents.
Operations in Aspen Hill
Partly in response to the low levels of staffing, and the prevailing trends in policing seen around the nation, Montgomery's DOP has promoted the concept of "Community Policing".
Concurrent with open expansion of efforts to engage community groups such as condominium associations and property-management personnel, there has been a more clandestine effort which at times seems to operate at cross-purposes with the open organizational efforts. Due to the clandestine nature of these efforts, it is arguable that there is no actual association with the uniformed divisions of the DOP as administered from the Fourth District command structure. Indeed, it is arguable that there are several networks of "uncontrolled officers" and their informants and operatives stumbling through the neighborhood metaphorically tripping over each others' allegorical feet.
Absence of close-coupled command authority and accountability is a classic trap of plainclothes and undercover police operations. Rogue elements playing fast and loose with their networks of informants and "local talent" have been massively destructive to communities throughout the annals of police history. For reference, see the history of the Texas Panhandle Regional Narcotics Task Force, described by Texas State legislator Terry Keel (a former sheriff) as "brother-in-law types in ninja suits" (Blakeslee, Nate, Texas Observer, March 2004, downloaded on 2008 May 26). See also "Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town", Blakeslee, Nate (2005) on the infamous Tom Coleman cases.
It is further arguable that given the highly "internationalized" and "diverse" nature of the community, Aspen Hill might once again be, as it was in the Cold War, a favorite operational venue for the international intelligence community (Mitrokhin, Vasiliy, "Mitrokhin Archive", Lillard, Stewart, "Aspen Hill Maryland: a Brief History, downloaded 2008 May 26, including by reference "The Sword and the Shield: the Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB", N.Y.: Basic Books, 1999, pp. 186-189.).
Uniformed operations include Community Service officers who specialize in bridging the gaps between "regular civilians" and the law-enforcement community, as well as Educational Facility officers. Also instrumental have been targeted enforcement efforts such as the county-wide "PCAT" "police-community action teams" which can for limited times focus greatly enhanced manpower deployments on specific trouble spots. Also very useful, through early 2008 a policy of "decrease to zero tolerance" towards persons seeking day-labor employment at impromptu hiring centers convened on private property. At one time in late 2007, literally a hundred or more day-laborers congregated on the grounds of Home Depot in Aspen Hill with other gatherings across Georgia Avenue at the 7-11. Other comparable gatherings in nearby communities outside of Aspen Hill proper have been subject to comparable enforcement efforts (Jasinski, Agnes and Meno, Mike, "Fewer construction jobs, less demand for laborers", Gazette, April 10, 2008 downloaded on 2008 May 26). Now, after months of work, the gatherings are much smaller, and in general only amount to as many as a dozen or so men waiting in the parking lot of the 7-11 (observed 2008 June 14).
Other uniformed operations include public outreach and participation in anti-gang programs (Montgomery County website).
Community Response to Crime
Community responses to anti-crime efforts by the DOP have been mixed.
The criminal element, not surpisingly, has tended to adapt to police activity generally in two ways: either they don't much care or they take a more subdued approach. The ones who don't much care quickly learn that it is generally a good idea to care. The ones who take a more subdued approach are likely to be, ultimately, a far greater problem to the non-criminal elements of the community.
The "legitimate" elements of the community tend to be generally supportive of all police activity other than speed-limit enforcement. Public attendance at civic association and "social group" meetings is almost always boosted when representatives of the DOP are scheduled to appear.
Some elements of the community have aligned themselves openly with the law-enforcement community. In particular, the rental property-management community tends to work with the DOP to resolve problems, and some elements of the business community work with the DOP. Yet again there seems to be some efforts at cross-purposes ongoing. Many of the shopping centers don't depend merely on the police, they also hire various levels and layers of private security staff, ranging from uniformed and licensed armed security officers to "informal arrangements".
"Informal arrangements" is an expression covering a lot of conceptual and operational territory, not to mention covering a wide and fuzzy expanse of legality. In general, "informal arrangements" has included establishment of low-key militias. For example, during the extensive power outages following Hurricane Isabel, the English Manor neighborhood was quickly covered in parts at night by an impromptu "local defense force" consisting entirely of African immigrants who simply assumed key positions and kept watch. Interestingly, there was very little reported crime during that period.
"Informal arrangements" are inherently risky to the community as a whole. Legitimate citizens expect law-enforcement activity to be the exclusive province of the duly-constituted authorities such as sworn officers of the Department of Police. Society as a whole is meant to be bound by the constitutions and by law, rather than by the organizational abilities of private citizens or foreign interlopers. In times of emergency such as natural disasters, it may be necessary for untrained personnel to step forward to fill gaps in services, though the County does in fact have a fairly large trained and certified reserve of volunteers trained through such programs as "CERT" or "community emergency response teams".
As of September 2010, there is preliminary formation of a Neighborhood Watch.