Pace of Cheltenham case raises political questions
House minority leader Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell is demanding answers about the February death of a teacher at a state juvenile facility in Prince George’s County. O’Donnell, who represents Calvert County, said it is inexcusable that five months have elapsed and yet no charges have been filed in the killing – even though investigators quickly identified a 13-year-old suspect.
A fellow employee found Hannah Wheeling's beaten body early one Feburary morning outside a locked door at a small, lower-security building on the groounds of Cheltenham Youth Facility. The suspect, a boy she had taught, was moved to another juvenile center in Maryland. Little information has emerged about the circumstances of the killing, though the Department of Juvenile services shuttered the building and fired two employees.
O’Donnell, a frequent critic of DJS, says Gov. Martin O’Malley must be held accountable for the lack of movement in the case and said he can’t help but wonder if the delays are politically motivated. O’Malley, a Democrat, faces reelection in November.
“He has the responsibility to give us information,” O’Donnell said. “How many months is it going to take?”
In a letter hand-delivered yesterday to the governor, O'Donnell wrote that O’Malley should provide citizens with a status update on the case and to explain the "silence" surrounding it.
Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for O’Malley said “the process is underway” and that O’Donnell’s broader questions “have been asked and answered over, and over, and over again.”
The Sun wrote in May about the role the killing -- and DJS in general -- might play in the election, where Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. hopes to reclaim the job O’Malley won from him four years ago.
The Maryland State Police investigated Wheeling's death, and the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting the case. Sources close to the investigation said yesterday that “charges are imminent.”
Authorities have blamed the slower-than-average progress of the case on two circumstances: a significant DNA backlog at the state police and the complexity of charging such a young person with such a serious crime.