Last week’s alleged murder in Berlin is the first in 11 years. Right or wrong, I’m not counting the murder-suicide in 2014 involving an elderly couple because the investigation was wrapped in minutes once it was determined to be a classic “Romeo and Juliet love story,” as one friend described it.
The last time Berlin dealt with a true murder investigation was in 2008 when a fight broke out among locals in the Decatur Farms community after a Stephen Decatur High School graduation party. A 19-year-old man was killed when he was struck by a baseball bat swung by a 22-year-old man. Ultimately a manslaughter conviction was secured and a 10-year sentence was handed down.
Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing took time during this week’s council meeting to address last week’s death of 17-year-old Dehaven Nichols allegedly at the hands of 16-year-old Vershawn Hudson-Crawford. The death was brought to the attention of authorities when Hudson-Crawford and his mother and grandmother came to the Berlin Police Station to report it.
“In regards to our tragic loss of life last week we want to stop and thank all of our law enforcement partners,” Downing said. “The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, their patrol division, CET, Maryland State police, their homicide unit, their crime techs, we had nine officers ourselves on site. Ocean City police department, and definitely town staff coming out providing lighting, again we can’t do these things on our own. We know it’s a time for healing for the community. We anticipate a lot of other events with the young folks of the community are going through. They’re planning something actually … as a memorial. We’ll try to go ahead and keep everybody abreast of that. Please hold on to your children just a little bit tighter. Have a discussion, a talk with them and understand that they are going through emotional things.”
As far as an update on the murder case, a criminal indictment was issued against Hudson-Crawford this week. He is being held without bond and faces first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault charges. He entered a plea of not guilty on Wednesday.
Sometimes change is just hated for the sake of being change.
Many of the online naysayers who criticized the Town of Berlin’s annexation of a six-acre parcel at the intersection of Route 50 and Main Street seem to fall into the fear change crowd.
The property in question is currently a dump. There are dozens of broken down vehicles on the property and it’s a blight for what is arguably the primary entrance to town for many motorists. It’s a prime piece of property that is ripe for redevelopment for many years. From the town’s perspective, annexing the property will ultimately have financial advantages as it will receive tax revenue as well as user fees previously sent to the county.
Most of the concerns heard this week were more about the chosen brand of convenience store – a new and improved 7-Eleven concept — than anything else. That’s the private property owner’s decision on who to lease space to in the new development. Overall, I think it’s a positive for the town. There’s no question the visual of that intersection will be improved considerably with a redevelopment project.
First-year Worcester County Commissioner Josh Nordstrom is trying everything he can to get more attention for his home district, Pocomoke. How far he will ultimately be willing to go will be determined in future weeks and could have an impact on Ocean City.
There are multiple steps involved with increasing the county’s room tax from 4.5% to 5%. After being vetted at the committee level for months, the Ocean City Mayor and Council needed to approve the increase before sending the request to the Worcester County Commissioners, who ultimately have all the power. The commissioners must then draft enabling legislation to be approved before the actual resolution to officially increase the tax is weighed. The enabling legislation was approved last week by a 6-0 vote with Nordstrom abstaining. He chose not to register a vote in an intentional political play, he admitted. Nordstrom said his fellow commissioners have rebuked his multiple attempts to get specific support from the county for Pocomoke aside from the unrestricted annual grant of $465,000, the same amount given to Berlin and Snow Hill.
“… I have to do things like abstain to get a little attention. … It’s politics,” he said. “It’s ugly and it’s kind of silly at times but I only have so many cards to play. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any attention from the county. I felt it was important to make some people listen.”
While I admire his tenacity for his hometown, I hope Nordstrom thinks better of sinking the room tax increase. A lot of deliberation has gone into this hike and it’s the right thing to do. The local room tax is much smaller than other tourist destinations and the new revenue generated will essentially be put right back into tourism in the form of an investment as well as helping to fund increased expenses associated with being a resort. Nordstrom has made his point in rallying for Pocomoke, but there are other routes to take than to sink an important move for the entire county.