OC Arsonist Sentenced

OC Arsonist Sentenced
Social Issues Government

SNOW HILL — An Easton man, charged in August with first-degree arson and reckless endangerment after purposely starting a fire at a downtown Ocean City apartment complex, pleaded guilty this week and was sentenced to seven years in jail, most of which was suspended in favor of a fine and probation.

Luke Vincent Howard III, 18, was charged in August with first-degree arson and reckless endangerment after law enforcement was able to connect him to an early morning apartment building fire on Lark Lane last Aug. 2. On Monday, Howard pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and was sentenced to seven years, all but 18 months of which were then suspended.

He was also placed on probation for 30 months and fined $500. Howard was also ordered to pay $135 in restitution to the victim, the Bay Colony West Apartment owners on Lark Lane.

On Sunday, Aug. 2, an unknown suspect later identified as Howard poured gasoline on the porch of a two-story, six-unit apartment building on Lark Lane and lit it on fire. Occupants of the ground-floor units noticed the odor of gasoline, and after discovering the fuel had been lit, extinguished the flames prior to notifying authorities. At the time of the fire, the building was occupied by over 30 individuals, most of whom were asleep.

An investigation by the Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office, with assistance from the Ocean City Police Criminal Investigation Division and the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office, found the fire was incendiary in nature and purposely set. Investigators identified Howard as the suspect. While Howard is from Easton, he was a seasonal worker in Ocean City and his address on court documents is listed as the Phillips’ dormitory on 21st Street.

Howard was charged with first- and second-degree arson, malicious burning, malicious destruction of property and reckless endangerment. No injuries were reported in the incident.

Crash Leads To Arrest

BERLIN — A Delaware woman faces drunk-driving and other charges this week after allegedly running a stop sign in Berlin last weekend and colliding with another vehicle.

Around 4:25 p.m. last Saturday, Maryland State Police troopers responded to the area of Route 610 and Route 346 in Berlin for a reported motor vehicle collision. The investigation revealed a Toyota Corolla operated by Jonni Wolksee, 40, of Dover, was traveling northbound on Route 610 and failed to stop at a stop sign line before colliding with a vehicle driving eastbound on Route 346.

While interviewing Wolskee, trooper detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage. After a battery of field sobriety tests were administered, Wolskee was placed under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Wolskee was not injured as a result of the collision, but the driver of the other vehicle was transported to PRMC in Salisbury for injuries sustained in the crash.

Assaults Over Loud Music

SALISBURY — An apparent dispute over inappropriately loud music in a public park resulted in the serious altercation after which two local men were charged with first-degree assault last weekend.

Shortly before 5 p.m. last Sunday, Salisbury Police responded to the Boundless Playground on Broad Street for a reported fight in progress. Upon arrival, officers met with several witnesses as well as the two suspects involved in the fight. The initial investigation revealed the two combatants, Charles Preston Smith, 48, and Kendal Lee Smiley, 18, were involved in a mutual assault that started in the playground and eventually spilled over into the roadway on Broad Street. Smith is a James M. Bennett Middle School teacher.

According to police reports, Smith confronted a group of juveniles in the park who were reportedly playing loud, inappropriate music. When Smith confronted the group of juveniles, Smiley interceded and stepped in between Smith and the group. A verbal argument between Smith and Smiley ensued, which escalated into a physical altercation.

According to police reports, the argument turned physical when Smith allegedly began swinging a golf club at Smiley, striking him in the head and upper torso. Smiley then armed himself with a large stick and began striking Smith in the head and upper torso.

According to police reports, Smiley and the juvenile attempted to leave the park area and were followed by Smith. A second confrontation began in the street, where Smiley and Smith continued to assault each other with their respective weapons.

Smith and Smiley were ultimately transported to PRMC where they were treated for serious, but not life-threatening injuries and were later released. Upon release, Smith and Smiley were transported to the Wicomico County Detention Center where they were being held pending bond reviews as of mid-week. Smith and Smiley were each charged with first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, affray, disorderly conduct, and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Safe Swipers Sentenced

POCOMOKE — Two local men, arrested last August on burglary and other charges after attempting to steal the safe from a Pocomoke restaurant, each pleaded guilty this week to second-degree burglary and each was sentenced to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay restitution.

Last Aug. 28, the Worcester County Bureau of Investigations was contacted to assist the Pocomoke Police Department with a burglary that had occurred sometime overnight at the Friendly’s restaurant. The investigation revealed Friendly’s closed on Friday night with all doors secured by the night manager.

Sometime after the restaurant closed, suspects broke into the restaurant and stole a safe containing an undisclosed amount of cash. The suspects used a rear door to exit the restaurant and stole a hand cart to wheel the safe off the property. A significant amount of damage was caused by the suspects to the inside of the restaurant prior to leaving.

Maryland State Police crime scene detectives responded to collect evidence and assist with the investigation. Investigators quickly identified the suspects as Dylan Sedgwick, 21, and Michael Hernandez, 21, both of Pocomoke. With the assistance of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Unit, the Pocomoke Police Department and WCBI, Sedgwick and Hernandez were taken into custody in Pocomoke without incident. The safe was recovered with damage, but was still intact and had not been opened.

This week, Sedgwick and Hernandez each pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary. Hernandez was sentenced to eight years with all but 18 months suspended, and was placed on probation for two years and fined $500. Sedgwick was sentenced to five years will all but eight months suspended, with two years of probation and a $500 fine. Both defendants were ordered to jointly pay $4,500 in restitution to the restaurant.

Waterman’s License Revoked

SALISBURY — A Wicomico County waterman convicted on multiple poaching violations this week was permanently banned from fishing commercially in Maryland waters by an administrative law judge.

Adam Rodney Antes, 33, of Tyaskin, was found guilty in District Court in multiple cases over a two-year period of taking oysters from protected waters, overharvesting and harvesting undersized oysters. Consequently, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) assessed 60 points on Antes’ tidal fishing license, or nearly double what is required to trigger a revocation. Administrative Law Judge Michael Burns said the revocation was reasonable given the extent of Antes’ actions.

“The licensee’s transgressions endanger a unique Maryland resource,” the judge said. “I can find no reason not to uphold the rational decision of the DNR to revoke this licensee’s tidal fishing license.”

On January 11, Antes was charged with eight new counts of oyster poaching by NRP officers. Acting on a tip, NRP officers set up surveillance on the vessel “Kimberly Dawn,” which was tied up near Bivalve Harbor in Wicomico. On board they saw piles of oysters on the boat’s deck. Antes admitted dredging the oysters just outside the harbor on the previous night.

NRP officers gathered the oysters in five bushel baskets and measured them, finding four bushels containing as high as 55 percent undersized oysters. Antes was charged with four counts of harvesting undersized oysters, violating harvest hours, possessing oysters two hours after sunset and before sunrise, failing to cull oysters and failing to tag oysters and place them in approved containers. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.