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Maryland Victims

MARYLAND 

AMY CASTILLO, Montgomery County, Maryland. Amy Castillo, a pediatrician, and primary parent to three small children (Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2), twice was denied her motion to restrict Mark Castillo's visitation rights. Not only that, she was fined for "visitation interference". Her children are dead now, murdered by their father in a hotel room in Baltimore, March 31, 2008. "A long-running custody battle..." "Amy Castillo filed for a protective order in December of 2006 and claimed Mark had threatened to kill their children to make her suffer. She requested that the order be permanent but a judge denied the request saying there was no evidence of abuse." You can find the case records at http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/inquiry/inquiry-index.jsp

BALTIMORE

Not-Guilty Plea in Drownings

Mental State at Issue for Man Accused of Killing Children

 
 
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; Page B03

The Rockville man accused of drowning his three young children in the bathtub of a Baltimore hotel room pleaded not guilty yesterday, with his attorney moving to invoke Maryland's version of the insanity defense.
This Story
Mark Castillo, 41, did not speak during his arraignment on multiple charges of first-degree murder in the March deaths of Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2. As the charges and the names of the children were read aloud, Castillo shook and began to weep.
In entering Castillo's plea, public defender Natasha Dartigue Moody also moved for an evaluation to determine whether her client was "not criminally responsible" for the killings -- a finding that could allow Castillo to avoid trial and be committed to a psychiatric facility. Castillo, who has a history of mental illness, confessed to the killings, according to charging documents.
Amy Castillo, a pediatrician who had fought in court to limit her children's contact with their father, was not at yesterday's arraignment but issued a statement saying: "This fight was about mental illness, human choice, spiritual forces that we don't understand, and an emergency situation that had a profound impact on three innocent children. What is important to me now is that Mark will no longer be able to hurt anyone else, and that my current or any future family will not have to live in fear."
Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. Doory set an Aug. 22 trial date. The Baltimore state's attorney's office has not decided whether to pursue the death penalty or life without parole in the case, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman.
In court yesterday, his first public appearance since the children were found dead March 30, Castillo wore what appeared to be a hospital bracelet on one of his handcuffed wrists. Castillo, who has remained in a jail hospital since an April court hearing during which officials said he was a suicide risk, had a full beard. His eyes were watery as he was led from the courtroom, and he raised his head only to acknowledge a group of about a half-dozen people who appeared to be friends or family members. A member of the group declined to comment.
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Castillo will now be evaluated by mental health experts with the Baltimore Circuit Court Medical Service, an independent judicial agency, an official said. Castillo probably will be interviewed one or more times by experts, who will also look at his mental health history, the official said.
Castillo has received diagnoses of depression and narcissistic personality disorder and has a history of suicidal behavior, according to court records and testimony. His wife once said he had told her that "the worst thing he could do to me would be to kill the children and not me," but psychologists determined that Castillo was not an immediate threat to his children, and judges upheld his right to visit them, according to records.
Castillo told investigators he killed the children 2 1/2 hours before he was required to return them to Amy Castillo under a visitation agreement worked out in court, authorities said. According to charging documents, Castillo said he swallowed 100 Motrin tablets and stabbed himself in the neck with a steak knife, then drifted into unconsciousness and woke up 19 hours later, realizing that his suicide attempt had failed, the documents say.
More than just a psychiatric history is needed for a defendant to be found criminally not responsible as a result of a mental disorder or retardation, an official said. Castillo's evaluators will focus on his mental state at the time of the crimes of which he is accused, the official said. It must be determined that Castillo lacks sufficient capacity to understand the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law, the official said.
The Baltimore prosecutor's office has said that it will not fight such findings by the court medical service. If Castillo is found criminally not responsible for the killings, and the defense wishes him to be committed to a psychiatric facility such as the Clifford T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, he must plead guilty to the charges, an official said. Otherwise, the defense will have to maintain Castillo's innocence during a trial, the official said.
The requirement that a guilty plea be entered in such cases stems from a Maryland law designed to make sure defendants committed to psychiatric hospitals have their criminal history taken into consideration before being released. In the past, defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity could be released from a psychiatric facility by proving that they are no longer a harm to themselves or others, the official said.
Staff writer Dan Morse contributed to this report. 
 

BALTIMORE

Not-Guilty Plea in Drownings

Mental State at Issue for Man Accused of Killing Children

 
 
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; Page B03

The Rockville man accused of drowning his three young children in the bathtub of a Baltimore hotel room pleaded not guilty yesterday, with his attorney moving to invoke Maryland's version of the insanity defense.
This Story
Mark Castillo, 41, did not speak during his arraignment on multiple charges of first-degree murder in the March deaths of Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2. As the charges and the names of the children were read aloud, Castillo shook and began to weep.
In entering Castillo's plea, public defender Natasha Dartigue Moody also moved for an evaluation to determine whether her client was "not criminally responsible" for the killings -- a finding that could allow Castillo to avoid trial and be committed to a psychiatric facility. Castillo, who has a history of mental illness, confessed to the killings, according to charging documents.
Amy Castillo, a pediatrician who had fought in court to limit her children's contact with their father, was not at yesterday's arraignment but issued a statement saying: "This fight was about mental illness, human choice, spiritual forces that we don't understand, and an emergency situation that had a profound impact on three innocent children. What is important to me now is that Mark will no longer be able to hurt anyone else, and that my current or any future family will not have to live in fear."
Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. Doory set an Aug. 22 trial date. The Baltimore state's attorney's office has not decided whether to pursue the death penalty or life without parole in the case, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman.
In court yesterday, his first public appearance since the children were found dead March 30, Castillo wore what appeared to be a hospital bracelet on one of his handcuffed wrists. Castillo, who has remained in a jail hospital since an April court hearing during which officials said he was a suicide risk, had a full beard. His eyes were watery as he was led from the courtroom, and he raised his head only to acknowledge a group of about a half-dozen people who appeared to be friends or family members. A member of the group declined to comment.
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Castillo will now be evaluated by mental health experts with the Baltimore Circuit Court Medical Service, an independent judicial agency, an official said. Castillo probably will be interviewed one or more times by experts, who will also look at his mental health history, the official said.
Castillo has received diagnoses of depression and narcissistic personality disorder and has a history of suicidal behavior, according to court records and testimony. His wife once said he had told her that "the worst thing he could do to me would be to kill the children and not me," but psychologists determined that Castillo was not an immediate threat to his children, and judges upheld his right to visit them, according to records.
Castillo told investigators he killed the children 2 1/2 hours before he was required to return them to Amy Castillo under a visitation agreement worked out in court, authorities said. According to charging documents, Castillo said he swallowed 100 Motrin tablets and stabbed himself in the neck with a steak knife, then drifted into unconsciousness and woke up 19 hours later, realizing that his suicide attempt had failed, the documents say.
More than just a psychiatric history is needed for a defendant to be found criminally not responsible as a result of a mental disorder or retardation, an official said. Castillo's evaluators will focus on his mental state at the time of the crimes of which he is accused, the official said. It must be determined that Castillo lacks sufficient capacity to understand the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law, the official said.
The Baltimore prosecutor's office has said that it will not fight such findings by the court medical service. If Castillo is found criminally not responsible for the killings, and the defense wishes him to be committed to a psychiatric facility such as the Clifford T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, he must plead guilty to the charges, an official said. Otherwise, the defense will have to maintain Castillo's innocence during a trial, the official said.
The requirement that a guilty plea be entered in such cases stems from a Maryland law designed to make sure defendants committed to psychiatric hospitals have their criminal history taken into consideration before being released. In the past, defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity could be released from a psychiatric facility by proving that they are no longer a harm to themselves or others, the official said.
Staff writer Dan Morse contributed to this report. 
 

Why This Mother Was Not Heard

Sunday, April 13, 2008; B08

The Castillo family's tragedy ["Deaths of 3 Children Test Md. Legal System," front page, April 6] highlights family courts' failures to protect children in the context of custody litigation. The question permeating media coverage is why the courts allowed Mark Castillo unsupervised access to his children, despite their mother's pleas that they needed protection. Mark Castillo's specific threat -- to kill the children and leave Amy Castillo with "nothing" -- was ignored by both the courts and the psychological evaluators, as was his history of suicidal actions. Had the request for protection come from the state, instead of the mother, the court would have listened.

The reluctance of custody courts and evaluators to suspend paternal access to children despite specific threats to kill those children (and their mother) should be seen as nothing short of astounding. In no other world would we expect authorities to grant unfettered access to children to someone who had threatened to kill them. Yet in family court, the obvious risk becomes obscured. Courts become blinded by the parents' battles. Thus, mothers are believed to fabricate or exaggerate dangers posed by fathers. Fathers (and mothers) are assumed to say things they don't mean in the heat of a "bitter custody dispute."

These stereotypes are generally false. Mothers rarely fabricate or exaggerate the dangers they see. And parents who make threats rarely do so for the first time in litigation. "Bitter custody disputes" do not arise in a vacuum -- most arise in the context of mothers seeking to end abuse or protect their children. When they go to court, however, mothers' fears are suspect, simply because they are in a custody battle. In the Castillo case, the judge and evaluators apparently felt that Amy Castillo was "biased" and not credible, in part because she continued to have sex with the father and allowed him to see the children. However, mothers have few means of protecting their children from dangerous fathers.

When they flee, they face parental kidnapping prosecutions or loss of custody, as in a case now pending in the D.C. Court of Appeals. And it is well established that "acting normal" with an abuser can be a survival strategy -- Castillo told the court she was (rightly) afraid to refuse sex. David L. Levy's April 6 Close to Home piece made the bizarre suggestion that Maryland needs more joint custody. "Bitter custody battles" make parents "nuts," he wrote. This ignores the critical fact that Mark Castillo's abusive behavior was the cause, not the effect, of that "battle."

Levy also, strangely, urged courts "to provide more psychological evaluations." If this case teaches anything, it is that standard psychological evaluations are worse than useless. But lethality risk assessment in domestic violence teaches what Levy and the evaluators apparently do not know: Two major red flags for familial homicide are threats to kill and suicidal tendencies. Had either evaluator possessed this expertise, they might have had more respect for Amy Castillo's fear.

Contrary to stereotypes, most divorcing mothers do not seek to deprive the children of their father. Most settle out of court. Only about 20 percent of cases become "contested custody litigation." It's not surprising that a large proportion of these "bitter custody disputes" involve violent or abusive fathers.

It is time courts faced the truth: Custody litigants frequently have a history of abuse. Men who abuse their partners often pose a threat to their children. Most women seeking to restrict fathers' access to their children are doing so out of legitimate fear for their well-being. And too many children are delivered to dangerous fathers by family courts that prioritize fathers' "rights" over children's safety.

Not a pretty picture. And not one that, if we care about children, can be ignored.


-- Joan S. Meier

Washington

Rest In Peace
Thywill.jpg
Anthony, Austin, Athena and Little Bryanna

 

Father Charged With Murder Held Without Bail

Officials: Man Called Desk After Drowning His 3 Kids

POSTED: 2:59 pm EDT March 30, 2008
UPDATED: 11:53 am EDT April 1, 2008
 
BALTIMORE -- A father charged with drowing three children in a hotel bathroom was being held without bail Tuesday, and 11 News learned he has been ordered to be evaluated as a possible suicide risk.

Mark Anthony Castillo, 41, of Rockville, was charged Monday with three counts of first-degree murder.

Investigators told 11 News that Castillo called the desk at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor on Eutaw Street at about 1:15 p.m. Sunday and said he had just killed the children -- Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2.

At a news conference Monday, Baltimore City police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld said, "We believe the children were drowned, one at a time in the tub."

Police charged Castillo with 15 charges including three counts of first-degree murder and six counts of child abuse. He was charged at about 1 p.m. Monday after his release from a hospital where he was treated for self-inflicted cuts to his neck, police said.

According to charging documents, Castillo told police he drowned the children about 6 p.m. Saturday, then stabbed himself in the neck several times with a steak knife. He also took about 100 Motrin pain reliever pills in an attempt to commit suicide, but woke up Sunday at 1 p.m., when he made the call to the front desk.

Castillo is being held without bond.

"Cases like this one are difficult," he said. "They have an incredible emotional impact on everyone involved."

11 News reporter Josh Davidsburg said court records showed custody issues existed between Mark Castillo and wife Amy, which Bealefeld confirmed Monday.

Bealefeld said the father was supposed to return his kids to their mother Saturday at 8:30 p.m. The mother called Montgomery County authorities when that didn't happen, Bealefeld said.

Bealefeld said Castillo and the children spent time Saturday at the Inner Harbor before checking in to the hotel.

After hotel security called police Sunday, officers found the three children dead and Castillo with cuts. The incident occurred on the hotel's 10th floor -- the top floor of the building.

"The guest actually stated that he had killed his children and also was planning to do bodily harm to himself," said police Officer Troy Harris.

"I know what I did was bad. I did it. I drown the kids," Castillo allegedly told paramedics.

Bealefeld said investigators will search Castillo's home in Rockville, along with Castillo's vehicle.

"It's really inexplicable why he chose Baltimore," Bealefeld said.

Mom Foreshadowed Killings In Court Filing

Court records described heated custody battles between the couple who had separated in December 2006 after about eight years of marriage.

Chilling words that foreshadowed the deaths of the three children appeared in a court petition for a protective order that was filed 13 months ago by the estranged wife of Castillo.

Amy Castillo's petition was filed in Montgomery County District Court on Christmas Day of 2006. She wrote that when her husband took their children for visits, he would not tell her where they were staying.

She wrote, "He has never actually hurt (the children), but did tell me that the worst thing he could do to me would be to kill the children and not me so I could live without them."

Mark Castillo received psychiatric treatment after he tried to kill himself in a hotel room in Virginia in June 2006, according to court records. Charging documents showed that he placed bracelets on the arm of each child as he/she was sleeping as a remembrance of him after his imminent death.

After that, however, Amy Castillo said he had refused treatment and was driving around the country, living in his car and threatening to kill himself.

A temporary protective order was approved three days after the filing, but a permanent order was rejected by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Dugan on Jan. 10, 2007.

Records showed that both parents violated custody rights and for a long time had only communicated by e-mail.

Outside her home Monday, a family friend handed a statement to reporters that read: "Amy Castillo asks for your continued prayers during this unspeakably difficult time. She is surrounded by family and friends and is coping as well as can be expected."

Guests, Neighbors, Officials Stunned By News

Many guests at the hotel Sunday afternoon were unaware of what had happened. Meanwhile, officers, hotel security personnel and uniformed bellhops prevented nonguests from entering the building.

"It's just sad something like that happened," hotel guest Nancy Cotiaux told 11 News. "It's just sad. But you can't predict where something like that would happen. A home, a hotel, it can happen anywhere."

The only clues that something out of the ordinary was going on were a few television trucks parked outside and a police officer by the elevator bank asking guests what floor they were heading to.
 
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"This tragedy not only makes one wonder and question why someone would do such an act," Mayor Sheila Dixon said Monday. "But it also emphasizes the fact that mental health and how we deal with mental health issues is a huge, huge problem. It's something that we have to make a priority."

Bealefeld said he was "reluctant to speculate" about Castillo's mental condition but said there had "been prior disputes with his wife concerning their marriage and custody of the children."

Bealefeld said Castillo had no prior criminal history.

In Silver Spring, neighbor Maria Habesch, 79, said she went to a party a few years ago at the couple's home. She described Mark Castillo as "very, very polite," but said she hasn't seen him in two years.

Habesch said she saw the children playing Friday in the front yard of their home.

"The situation, it paralyzes you," she said. "It's not easy, to know these little kids were jumping (around) and then they are gone."

Stay with WBALTV.com and WBAL TV 11 News for updates.

If you or someone you know is involved in a domestic dispute involving children and you need advice on resources for resolution, contact the House of Ruth.

 

 

January 13th, 2008

Vernice Harris Gives Two-Year-Old Methadone, Child ODs and Dies

Vernice Harris, 29, gave her two-year-old daughter, Bryanna Harris, methadone to keep her child from crying and disturbing her and her drug-addicted friends.

Eventually she gave the girl too much and Bryanna died from a methadone overdose and a beating to her stomach.

Now Vernice, whose two other daughters were taken away from her before Bryanna died, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, assault, reckless endangerment and child abuse.

At the time of Bryanna’s death, child protective services were investigating two reports that Vernice was neglecting her daughter. They had even visited Bryanna and her mother.

Why this woman allowed to keep Bryanna? She was living in squalor in a roach infested apartment. She had an obvious drug problem. Her two other girls were taken away from her.

The head of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources ordered an investigation into the agency’s handling of this case. Let’s hope that the death of Bryanna Harris is not in vain and some real changes come around in how reports of child abuse are handled.

Rest In Peace
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Andrew

 

Mother and Father Charged with Child Abuse in Death of Two-Year-Old Son

Baltimore County, Md. (December 28, 2007) - Baltimore County Police have arrested Susan Joan Griffin, 37, and her husband, John Joseph Griffin, 38, and charged them with first-degree child abuse in the death of their son Andrew Patrick Griffin, who was born on February 20, 2005. The couple lives in the 300-block of Old Trail Road, in Precinct 6/Towson.

The authorities first learned of the child’s death on Wednesday, December 26 when his father brought him to the emergency room of St. Joseph Hospital in Towson. According to medical personnel, the child weighed approximately 13 pounds – the average weight of a three-month-old infant – and was cold to the touch and unresponsive. He had a number of cuts and bruises about his head and a blackened right eye. There were additional cuts and bruises covering his body.

John Griffin told responding officers that he and his wife noticed the child was unconscious and they tried CPR for about 20 minutes, which failed to revive the boy. They then delayed bringing the child to the hospital while they discussed caring for their other four children.

According to the father, the child suffered his injuries when his mother was carrying him down the steps several months ago. She fell and he hit his head on a hard object. In explaining his weight, the father said that the child had suffered a flu-like illness in August or September and could not hold down food ever since. The family did not take the boy to a doctor. The parents said their own pediatrician would not see them because of a prior billing issue.

Investigation Continues Into the Cause of Death

Due to the extent and complexity of the child’s injuries, a specific cause of death has not yet been determined. When tests are completed by the Medical Examiner, a specific cause and manner will be determined.

The couple’s four other children are ages 10, 9, 4, and 1. Child Protective Services of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services is seeing to their care.

Bail for John Joseph Griffin has been set at $1.5 million

Missing Md Children Found, Father Arrested
Monday, January 01, 2007
WBAL Radio and The Associated Press

Three children who were missing after their mother was found slain in their home have been found unharmed, Montgomery County Police said.

Officer Melanie Hadley said four-year-old Elijah Emeruwa, his six-year-old sister Antinnoe and eight-year-old brother Jachi were found Monday evening by police after a resident spotted the car their father was driving in Olney. The children, who were unharmed, were turned over to state custody, Hadley said.

Police charged the father, 41-year-old Kelechi Charles Emeruwa, with first-degree murder in the death of 36-year-old Chidiebere Omenihu Ochulo.

She was found dead about 2:30 this morning inside the home on Dunwood Terrace after police responded to a report of an unconscious woman.

An Amber Alert has been issued for the children.

Witnesses say the three children ran to safety when police pulled over the car in Olney.  Witnesses also say police used a tazer to help take the father into custody after he rammed a police cruiser.

A resident spotted the car their father was driving in near Georgia Avenue and Prince Phillip Drive in Olney about 6:15 p.m this evening.

Police pursued the car, with the driver ramming several cruisers before it was stopped on a dead end on Viburnum Way.

 

Rest in Peace
blackart2.jpg
Kyla

DSS to Investigate Following Salisbury Toddler's Death
Kyla Edwards
Kyla Edwards

01/10/2007

SALISBURY- Officials are trying to get to the bottom of a 2-year-old foster child's murder. 

At a news conference held Wednesday morning, at the Wicomico Child Advocacy Center, officials with Wicomico County Department of Social Services discussed the death of Kyla Aranae Edwards, who was killed in December.

According to police, Kyla died from blows to the head and stomach.  Police say her foster mother's boyfriend, 44-year-old Edson Lamont Brown of Salisbury, murdered the girl while the two were alone.

During the conference, DSS officials said that while there is an ongoing investigation, they will be working with other agencies to find out how the child's death could have been avoided and review department policies and procedures relating to foster care.

They said they were not aware that Brown- who has a criminal history- was living in the same home as Kyla and her foster mother.   

DSS officials also said they will be holding talks with Salisbury police, Maryland State Police, the Wicomico Sheriff's Office as well as the Wicomico State's Attorney's Office.  

DSS officials say that in a few weeks they should have a clearer idea of what happened and what more needs to be done to protect foster children from becoming victims of similar tragedies to Kyla's.

Kyla's grandmother, Cathy Wharton, said she tried to contact the foster care program for six straight weeks but got no response. She and and her husband suspected abuse at the home Kyla was in.  Wharton did not attend the press conference, but upon hearing what was discussed said she was not satisfied with the DSS' response.

"I don't understand having a press conference without answers," Wharton said. "My response to that is, who are you trying to protect that is taking so long?  Just tell us anything [because] we have nothing."

Meantime, police have charged Brown with second-degree murder, child abuse by a parent (household member in this case) resulting in death, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and child abuse of a child resulting in death while in his custody. 

Brown is being held without bond at the Wicomico County Detention Center.

MessengerOfPeace.jpg

3 Separate but similar cases.
 
Five Dead In Apparent Thanksgiving Murder-Suicide

POSTED: 10:03 pm EST November 22, 2007
UPDATED: 7:16 pm EST November 23, 2007

LAYTONSVILLE, Md. -- Five people, including three children, were found dead Thanksgiving night in an apparent murder-suicide in Montgomery County that police said appeared to be motivated by a domestic dispute.

Police found the bodies of an adult woman and three children at about 9:30 p.m. in two separate vehicles in the parking lot of Unity Park at 3724 Damascus Road.

The woman has been identified as Gail Louise Pumphrey, 43, of Woodbine. The children have been identified as a 6-year-old boy, a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

The bodies were taken to the State Medical Examiner's office for autopsies.

Officers searched the area and discovered at about 11 p.m. and discovered an adult man in a nearby wooded area dead from what police said was an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A .22-caliber rifle was found near the body.

The man has been identified as David Peter Brockdorff, 40, of the 9400 block of Prospect Hill Place in Frederick. Investigators said Brockdorff arrived in a Nissan Altima that had been reported stolen in Frederick County.

"It looks like it is a domestic-related homicide-suicide," Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Porsha Jones said.

Investigators said Brockdorff met Pumphrey, the custodial parent, to take the children for the Thanksgiving holiday and, for unknown reasons, shot and killed them. Pumphrey and her daughter were found in Pumphrey's car, and her sons were found in the car Brockdorff was driving. Brockdorff was found about 100 yards away, police said.

Public records indicate that there was a past history of domestic-related issues. According to court records, Pumphrey had taken out a restraining order against Brockdorff earlier this year and Brockdorff had been charged in domestic violence cases in the past and convicted once.

The area around the park was closed Thursday evening while police investigated. The 1.5-acre park is in a sparsely populated area.

There have been several domestic-related killings involving children in Maryland this year.

A Montgomery County father killed his two children in April before committing suicide. Gerardo Roque, a horse farm worker, hanged his 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter in Boyds, a rural area in the northern part of the county.

In March, the remains of four young children were found in the family's townhouse in neighboring Frederick. The father's body was found hanging from a banister. The children's mother remains missing.
 
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BARNESVILLE, Md.  —  A mother discovered the bodies of her two young children and their father in a wooded area Tuesday after the man threatened to harm them, police said.

The father had called the woman, apparently distraught over their relationship, said Montgomery County Police Officer Melanie Hadley. The woman called police about 3 p.m., to report a "possible suicide" and went to the location he had given her, Hadley said.

When police arrived at the wooded area near the Frederick County border they could hear the mother screaming, Hadley said. The bodies of a 35-year-old male, a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy were found 100 to 200 yards from the road, she said.

Police did not identify the victims other than to say they were residents of Boyds. The cause of death was still under investigation and autopsies would be performed Wednesday or Thursday, Hadley said.

Hadley said the 42-year-old woman had a relationship with the children's father, but they had been "estranged for some time."

The bodies were found on the property of Good News Farm. A woman who answered the phone at the horse stable said they were working with police but would not comment further.

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Father and four children four dead

Tuesday's discovery came a week after a man and his four young children were found dead in a townhouse about 20 miles away in Frederick. In that incident, police said three young girls had been suffocated, and their brother died from skull fractures. The father hanged himself from a bannister with nylon rope. The mother is still missing.



From the Washington Post

Domestic Violence Bills Languish on Judiciary Panel

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 11, 2008; C08

Members of Maryland's defense bar don't just go to court to guard the rights of clients accused of domestic violence. Some of their biggest victories come in Room 101 of the House Office Building in Annapolis, where many victims' rights bills go to die.
After a year of several domestic slayings in Maryland, the General Assembly rebuffed efforts to force abuse suspects to give up their guns, to lengthen the term of protective orders, to deny paternity rights to rape suspects and to create a felony offense for setting a person on fire.
Some of those bills sailed through the Senate. But they were killed or left in a legislative drawer in Room 101, where the House Judiciary Committee meets.
The Maryland House of Delegates' rejection of those and other measures meant to enhance victims' rights underscores the power of the defense lawyers who dominate the committee, one of the legislature's most influential.
As a result, some Maryland laws are less favorable to domestic violence victims than those in other states, including Virginia, and in the District, legal experts say.
In Maryland, when victims go to court seeking a protective order, the standard of proof required is the highest in the country, and the duration of the order is among the shortest. Judges cannot immediately order abuse suspects to surrender their guns when victims seek protection. Rapists whose victims have a child have parental rights.
Victim advocates say the House Judiciary Committee has blocked significant changes to the laws.
"The committee has an underlying distrust of victims," said Tracy Brown, executive director of the Women's Law Center of Maryland. "A concern that women are making up these stories to get a leg up in a divorce. Certainly that can happen, but it's far from the majority of cases."
Lawyers on the committee who also rebuffed efforts a decade ago to stiffen penalties for drunk drivers say that what might appear to be good for victims is often an attack on defendants' civil liberties. They see themselves as bulwarks against the impulse to rewrite laws in response to emotionally wrenching crimes.
"The committee does not embrace every fad that comes along," said Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery), a defense lawyer on the panel.
The debate has continued in the past year, as a number of domestic killings in Maryland have received attention: Three Rockville children drowned in March during a custody dispute, and their father was charged in the deaths; a woman and three children were fatally shot in Damascus on Thanksgiving by the woman's ex-husband, who then shot and killed himself; and two Montgomery County children were hanged, apparently by their father, who then hanged himself.
The Judiciary Committee has been led since 1993 by Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's), a lawyer with a criminal defense practice in Suitland. Vallario, 71, is the legislature's longest-serving committee chairman. He rarely votes on the 22-member committee, which includes 15 lawyers, 10 of whom practice criminal law. Six members are women, and several are non-lawyers who favor gun rights.
Last year, Vallario outraged women's advocates at a hearing on a bill to deny paternity rights to rapists by invoking Lord Hale, a 17th-century English jurist who instructed juries to be suspicious of women's claims of rape.
In a recent interview, Vallario said his committee's approach to domestic violence issues has evolved dramatically, albeit gradually. He mentioned the passage this year of a bill allowing victims to seek a permanent protective order as long as the abuser has served at least five years in jail for a violent crime against the victim.
"In a lot of respects, we've made a lot of changes," Vallario said. "The committee has matured to recognize the difficulties of women in a domestic violence situation."
But, he added, "we are looking out for everybody."
Leading the House effort to strengthen protections for women is Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), a committee member and family court lawyer who describes the panel's work as a "constant battle between victims' rights and the defense bar." She called the House action to allow permanent protective orders, which will probably be signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) this month, "the surprise of the session."
Another measure, which would clarify police officers' authority to use force to return a minor child to a custodial parent when a final protective order takes effect, is also expected to become law.
Maryland's commitment to addressing violence against women has come a long way since protective orders were limited to 15 days and a woman could not bring rape charges against her husband. Many legislatures developed a sensitivity to domestic violence with the election of more female lawmakers and a series of high-profile crimes in the late 1980s. Maryland's General Assembly enacted several measures, including efforts to recognize abuse as a crime, to train police to take it seriously and to expand services for victims.
But as domestic violence persists -- claiming the lives of 52 women and children in Maryland last year among more than 22,000 reported crimes -- advocates continue to fight for broader protections that they say could save lives.
"I think there's a backlash in some instances where the committee's view is: 'We've given you all this legislation. Why do you keep coming back?' " said Michele Brown, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
When people seek protective orders in Maryland, they must prove "clear and convincing" evidence of abuse instead of a "preponderance of evidence," the standard used in the District and Virginia and other states.
That high bar led a Montgomery Circuit Court judge to deny a protective order to Amy Castillo to keep her estranged husband away from their children. The three children drowned in a Baltimore hotel room in March, and Mark Castillo was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.
Dumais did not introduce her bill this year to establish a lower standard for protective orders after watching them crumble several years in a row. It would be a lost cause, she said.
In Maryland and the District, protective orders are limited to a year. In Maryland, they can be extended for six months; in the District, indefinitely. Orders in Virginia last two years, and in several states they can be permanent.
Vallario said that extending the term to the 24 months sought by advocates is unnecessary, because many estranged couples seek a divorce after a year. Advocates disagree, saying that it can take up to two years to complete divorce proceedings.
Judges in Maryland have the discretion -- but are not required -- to confiscate the guns of an abuse suspect once a final protective order has been issued, after the defendant has had an opportunity to appear in court. In some jurisdictions, only regulated handguns, not rifles, can be removed. The law is stricter in the District and in Virginia and many other states, which allow the court to take firearms when a temporary protective order is issued.
Victims' advocates consider the gun laws the most dangerous loopholes in Maryland's statute and launched a blitz this year to close them. Several bills backed by the governor cleared the Senate, but the House Judiciary Committee voted them down. One would have authorized judges to confiscate guns when they issue temporary orders.
"This is when the situation is most red-hot," said Del. Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Prince George's). "It's a temporary taking. You didn't even see the NRA come out to testify against it."
The committee's gun rights advocates say someone accused of violence could be deprived of his weapons based on an accusation he has no opportunity to rebut.
"What if there's a shoving contest, and this guy has never said a threatening thing about the guns?" asked Del. Kevin Kelly (D-Allegany).
A hearing on the assault-by-burning bill was one of the most emotional of the legislative session, with Yvette Cade's story of how her estranged husband stormed into her workplace, threw gasoline on her and set her on fire. Weeks before the disfiguring 2005 attack, a Prince George's County judge had dismissed a temporary protective order that Cade had obtained against her husband.
Committee members said they were moved by Cade's testimony but struck down the bill, taking the view that Roger Hargrave's crime and others like it are addressed under state law. Hargrave is serving a life sentence for attempted first-degree murder.
The bill to deny a rape suspect's paternity rights was also shelved this year, despite having been unanimously passed by the Senate for the second straight year. Due process ruled the day: Unless a man has been convicted, a court should not deny him contact with his child.
Some victims' advocates say they are not taken seriously when they testify before the Judiciary Committee. At a hearing on a bill to require an abuse suspect to stay away from family pets, some lawmakers joked about whether protected animals should include chickens and farm animals.
"They're not realizing that the pet becomes part of the arsenal" of an abuser, said Cheryl R. Kravitz, a domestic violence survivor from Silver Spring who is co-chairman of the governor's Family Violence Council.
Years ago, Kravitz's ex-husband threatened to slit the throat of the family's beloved Lhasa apso, Benji. The dog was taken to a veterinary clinic when Kravitz left the home.
The committee rarely approves bills addressing animal cruelty, respecting the chairman's view that they are not serious measures.
Maine and Vermont have added pets to their domestic violence statutes, and several other states are weighing such laws.

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