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Teen gets suspended jail sentence

June 23, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

The teenage girl who aided in the October 1997 escape of an inmate on a work detail from the Maryland Correctional Training Center was given a one-year suspended jail sentence in Washington County Circuit Court.

Teal Allegra Messersmith, 18, of 11318 Youngstoun Drive, Apt. 1503, will be on supervised probation for two years while she continues her education and counseling.

"You have come a long way in turning your life around," said Judge Kennedy Boone last Wednesday. "But I'm not convinced that probation before judgment is best in this case."

Her attorney, Wiley Rutledge, asked for that disposition and prosecutor Susan Lochbaum agreed that probation before judgment would be appropriate.

"She was acting with an innocent heart," Rutledge said.

In February, she 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.

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Messersmith developed a pen pal friendship with Joseph Larry Burr while he was in prison and the two talked on the phone, court records said.

At her trial, 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, court records said.

MCTC officers supervising lunch for the prisoners on the detail discovered that Burr was missing.

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, court records said.

When Messersmith learned Burr was an escapee, she called the police, court records said.

"We have verified that you indeed called the Washington County Sheriff's Department on your own and that's important," Boone said.

Just hours after Burr was recaptured in Baltimore two days after the Oct. 3 escape, Messersmith turned herself in, court records said.

Those two days of freedom earned Burr a year and a day more in prison.

Burr, 24, appeared in Washington County Circuit Court May 26 and pleaded guilty to one count of escape.

He is serving the sixth year of a 12-year prison sentence for armed robbery and auto theft.

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