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July 21, 2010

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.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:08 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Crime & Justice
        

Comments

"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.”"

Answers? The answers appear to be that the Governor is sweeping it under the rug, or else just doesn't give a hoot.

"...a significant DNA backlog at the state police and the complexity of charging such a young person with such a serious crime."

Why is there a 5-month delay for such a high-profile case? And what's so complicated about the charging? If the Governor want another term, he should use his office and authority to move this case forward, if for no other reasons than to bring justice to the family of the very dedicated victim, and prevent such tragedies in the future,

I am not really seeing how this is a high profile case. I feel sorry for the victim and her family, however, people are murdered in PG County and in Maryland, and I don't really see what makes this high profile.
And what does this delegate really expect to happen to the 13 year old suspect? This is PG County, MD, adults are given less than 2 years, I'm pretty sure this suspect will be back on the streets within 6 months.

Typo Baltimore Sun Reporters:

(O’Donnell, a frequent critic of DJS, says Gov. Martin O’Malley most (MUST) be held accountable for the lack of movement in the case)

Didn't MOM slam the DJS under Ehrlich's watch during the 2006 election?

Careful to paint this as a partisan issue. There have been several prominent local Prince George's Democrats (namely Sen. Muse) also demanding answers.

The bottom line is that DJS evidently did NOT make changes after a legislative audit and there is a stunning lack of evidence due to delayed police calls, missing evidence and refusal by DJS to allow other inspectors onto the property.

O'Malley won't delve into it because he accused Ehrlich of misrunning DJS in 2006 and he made several promises he has failed to live up to in that regard.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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