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Judge delays sentencing

February 10, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Judge delays sentencing

Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone on Wednesday delayed imposing a sentence on an 18-year-old woman who said she unwittingly helped a prisoner escape last October.

Teal Allegra Messersmith, of 11318 Youngstoun Drive, Apt. 1503, entered an Alford plea to a charge of aiding/assisting an escape.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges the state has enough evidence to get a conviction, but does not admit guilt.

A charge of harboring a fugitive was dismissed in exchange for the plea.

Although Messersmith had no prior criminal offenses, Boone said he wanted to look into an incident when she was 15 that brought her in contact with the Department of Social Services.

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Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Arthur Rozes said Maryland State Police were called to the landfill on Kaetzel Road around noon on Oct. 3 to investigate an escape from a prison work detail.

Maryland Correctional Training Center officers supervising lunch for the prisoners on the detail discovered that Joseph Larry Burr was missing, Rozes said.

Two witnesses later told police they saw a car parked in a driveway near the landfill with a young girl at the wheel. They saw Burr running toward the car and then the car took off, Rozes said.

Defense attorney Wiley Rutledge said Messersmith had developed a pen pal friendship with Burr while he was in prison.

"Burr began writing to Teal and there were phone calls," Rutledge said.

Messersmith said she was told that Burr was getting out of prison that day and she was to go to Kaetzel Road and pick him up, Rutledge said.

"Burr spent two hours with her at a friend's house and he said he was going out for a Coke," Rutledge said. Burr didn't come back.

When Messersmith found out Burr was an escapee, she called the police. "I believe she was taken advantage of and was stupid," Rutledge said.

Just hours after Burr was recaptured in Baltimore two days later, Messersmith turned herself in to Maryland State Police.

Burr, 23, was serving a 12-year sentence for armed robbery and auto theft at MCTC at the time of the escape. Now at the Maryland Correctional Institution, Burr is awaiting trial for the escape.

Burr, who had served five years of his 12-year sentence, was in the Maryland Correctional Training Center's pre-release program when the escape occurred, prison officials said.

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