Relative says Carpenter abused weekend passes

August 27, 1997


Associated Press Writer

A convicted murderer who disappeared during a weekend leave from a halfway house frequently abused his pass privileges, according to a half-sister who vouched for him.

Charles Elmer Carpenter told Patuxent Institution officials he spent his weekends at Vada Luedtke's Baltimore-area home but Luedtke said Tuesday she hadn't seen her half-brother for three weeks before he went missing Aug. 10.

"He started having his own life," she said. "He started going to bars, hanging out, doing all that."

Patuxent, a treatment center for mentally ill inmates, "dropped the ball" by failing to confirm Carpenter's whereabouts during any of the three weekends before he escaped, Associate Director Henry J. Richards said Tuesday.


"There should have been documented contact. There is none," Richards said.

He said administrators were reviewing procedures at the Patuxent Re-Entry Facility, the halfway house in Baltimore where Carpenter lived.

Richards said Carpenter's work-release supervisor was responsible for tracking his whereabouts. Carpenter was required to call in daily while on leave and a Patuxent staffer was supposed to call the Luedtke home on a random basis, Richards said.

No decisions have been made about disciplining staffers, Richards said.

Carpenter, 32, didn't return to the halfway house Aug. 10 after his unsupervised weekend leave. He had a driver's license and was traveling in a black, two-door 1978 Chevrolet Malibu that he bought with his wages from a steel-and-lumber yard job, Richards said.

Carpenter was serving a life sentence for the 1982 shotgun murder of his grandmother, Vada Viola Carpenter, when he was 17. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 1983 and spent virtually all of his confinement in psychological treatment.

Luedtke said she had hardly spoken with Carpenter in the past two months after they argued about his refusal to follow the rules of his release.

She said she didn't tell Patuxent officials about his absence because she didn't feel it was her duty.

"He knows the rules. He knew the regulations. That's not my responsibility. I have three children. That's my responsibility," she said.

Richards said he was disappointed Luedtke didn't call Patuxent.

"That's one reason we approve a family situation is we assume a family's going to work with us," he said.

Carpenter was one of 10 Patuxent inmates serving life sentences with overnight leave privileges, Richards said. All but four, including Carpenter, were ordered to serve only a portion of their life sentences, with the remainder suspended.

All were convicted before 1989, when reforms pushed by victims' rights groups were enacted. If Carpenter committed the same crime today, he couldn't get into the Patuxent halfway program without a judge's ruling and permission from the secretary of public safety, Richards said.

No leaves have been canceled in the wake of Carpenter's escape, Richards said.

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