Suspicious Package Evacuates Courthouse

Suspicious Package Evacuates Courthouse
Social Issues Government

OCEAN CITY — District Court in Ocean City was evacuated because of a suspicious package on Monday morning before the day’s proceedings even got started, but the building was given the all clear about 40 minutes later.

Around 9 a.m. on Monday, a suspicious package was reported at District Court in Ocean City attached to the Public Safety Building on 65th Street. The courthouse was evacuated for precautionary measures while the Ocean City Police Department and the Ocean City Fire Department investigated. About 40 minutes later at 9:40 a.m., the building was given the all clear without incident and the day’s proceedings resumed.

Phone Scam Warning

WEST OCEAN CITY — The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office this week is warning area residents of a current phone scam ongoing involving solicitations for a West Ocean City homeless shelter.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, there are currently individuals claiming to represent the Diakonia Shelter in West Ocean City. The individuals are utilizing phone solicitation under the guise of raising money for the shelter.

Diakonia is not soliciting donations via phone at this time. Anyone contacted by an individual acting as a representative for Diakonia over the phone is urged to refrain from giving any funds or information. Anyone who has been solicited by these individuals is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 410-632-1112.

OC Burglary Suspect Sentenced

SNOW HILL — A Washington, D.C. woman arrested last June following a spree of burglaries and motor vehicle thefts that ended with a crash in Wicomico pleaded guilty last week to first-degree burglary and other charges and was sentenced to 10 years in jail, all but 18 months of which were suspended.

Heather Haire, 25, of Washington, pleaded guilty last week to first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and theft for her role in a spree in Ocean City last June during which five individuals were ultimately arrested. Haire was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months suspended. She was also placed on probation for five years and was ordered to pay $750 in restitution.

The incident began last June 15 when a vigilant citizen observed a group of suspicious individuals peeking in houses in the area of Teal Drive on a Sunday afternoon. Around 1:30 p.m., Ocean City Police were dispatched to the area of Teal Drive after a vigilant resident told a Public Safety Aide working an Ocean City Air Show traffic detail he had seen three suspicious individuals peering into area homes. Upon arrival, the officers located a vehicle in which the resident believed the suspects were traveling. The investigation revealed the vehicle had been reported stolen in Montgomery County.

OCPD officers quickly located three of suspicious individuals who were seen exiting the vehicle and each was arrested for theft of a motor vehicle. An investigator with the Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office also assisted and located and arrested a fourth suspect in the area of 20th Street and Philadelphia Ave., identified as Haire, who was linked to the theft of the motor vehicle.

While officers were still on the scene at Teal Drive, two residents reported burglaries of their homes during which electronics, jewelry and other items totaling roughly $60,000 had been stolen. Many of the items were recovered in the stolen vehicle, in the suspects’ possession or had been discarded by the suspects. During that investigation, OCPD officers developed a fifth suspect and had still not recovered some of the property stolen during the burglaries.

Around 6:40 p.m., OCPD officers responded to the area of 32nd Street and Baltimore Ave. for a report of a stolen vehicle. Believing the stolen vehicle at 32nd Street could be related to the earlier recovery of stolen vehicle and the burglaries on Teal Drive, OCPD officers broadcasted lookouts for the fifth suspect and the stolen vehicle to surrounding jurisdictions.

Around 9 p.m., OCPD detectives learned the Maryland State Police and Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office were involved in a vehicle pursuit near Salisbury involving the vehicle reported stolen from the 32nd Street area. The pursuit ended with a single-vehicle crash. Around 8:52 p.m., a deputy attempted to stop the vehicle that reached speeds of 120 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone. Instead of stopping, however, the driver, identified as Robinson-Gripper, failed to stop. Stopped traffic forced Robinson-Gripper to drive off the road and the vehicle crashed into a guardrail. Believing the pursuit had ended, the deputy exited his vehicle and approached what he believed was a disabled vehicle. However, Robinson-Gripper again drove away, dragging the vehicle’s rear and front bumpers on the roadway, causing a cascade of sparks. Again, Robinson-Gripper drove west on the eastbound lanes of Route 50 before crashing into a dirt embankment that permanently disabled the vehicle. Inside the crashed vehicle stolen from the 32nd Street area, OCPD detectives recovered electronics and jewelry stolen during the burglaries on Teal Drive.

Robinson-Gripper late last month was deemed not criminally responsible at the time of the crimes and was remitted to the state health department for evaluation. Two of Haire’s other co-defendants in the case, Christopher Bussey, 25, and Dominque Burton, 19, both of Washington, have already pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and each was sentenced to 10 years with all but two years suspended. Another co-defendant, Shinecia Mercer, 19, also of Washington, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months suspended.

Illegal Septic Conviction

SALISBURY — A Salisbury man last week was convicted of installing an illegal septic system that allowed waste to flow into the Chesapeake Bay and placed on probation, fined and ordered to perform community service.

Attorney General Brian Frosh announced last Thursday that Charles Elzey, 65, of Salisbury, has been convicted of installing an illegal septic system that allowed waste to flow into a tributary of the Wicomico River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Elzey, who also goes by the name Billy Ennis, was found guilty in Wicomico County Circuit Court of five counts of environmental violations related to the illegal work.

The case stemmed from a complaint lodged by tenants who moved into a Delmar home in 2013. In February 2013, the tenants contacted the owners, Marie and Darnell Marius of Delaware, to tell them that sewage was backing up into sinks and the bathtub, the toilet wouldn’t flush and that strong odors were permeating the house.

The Mariuses hired Elzey, 65, of Salisbury, to address the problem. Elzey installed a discharge pipe from the failing sewer system into a wooded area of the backyard and onto a neighboring property. The waste eventually drained into Wood Creek, a tributary of the Wicomico River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

Darnell Marius testified during the trial that he hired Elzey, and did not obtain permits for the work.

Elzey, who works for a sump pump company as a pump and hauler and was performing work on the Marius’ property on the side, was not licensed to perform septic repairs. A tenant testified that she saw Elzey removing old septic lines and installing a new discharge pipe, which drained above ground into the neighboring property. The tenants had previously told Wicomico County health officials, in connection with other charges relating to the case, that Marie Marius came to the property to monitor the work being done, as well as to provide payment for the installation. Marie Marius was convicted earlier this year in connection with the matter.

Elzey was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, complete 25 hours of community service and was placed on two years of supervised probation, with a six-month suspended sentence.

The case was brought by the Office of the Attorney General Environmental Crimes Unit. Attorney General Frosh thanked Assistant Attorney General Michelle Barnes, as well as investigator Bill Schmidt and Wicomico County Health Department inspectors, for their work.