Robber was on parole during recent spree

April 03, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

A man who confessed to robbing three banks, two Hagerstown motels and a convenience store two weeks ago was out of prison at the time because a Washington County judge gave him a break in 1996.

Former Washington County Circuit Court Judge Daniel W. Moylan had reduced from 15 years to five years a state prison sentence Charles Franklin Adams received for robberies he committed here in the early 1990s.

The judge also allowed the sentence to be served concurrently with a 5.5-year federal sentence stemming from a string of six earlier robberies here and elsewhere.

The change in the state sentence, added to time off for good behavior, allowed Adams to be paroled from the Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown last June.


Adams returned home to Virginia in January, but police say he returned to Hagerstown two months later to begin a spree that would span nearly two weeks and eventually result in seven more charges, including violation of parole.

Court records don't indicate why Adams, 31, got a reprieve in 1996. Moylan and other court officials interviewed said they don't remember the hearing or the Aug. 29, 1996, decision. His lawyer, Terry A. Myers of Hagerstown, declined to comment.

But Charles and Joyce Adams of Stephens City, Va., say their son "Chuck" was a model prisoner and that he had once prevented a prison break.

They described him as a nice young man who became a different person when he started using crack cocaine.

"It's just the drug that is such a monster," Joyce Adams said.

His parents also said they believe he had a hard time dealing with the death of his younger brother in 1991.


Charles Adams was originally sentenced for a series of robberies he committed in Hagerstown, Frederick, Md., and Carroll County, Md., in 1991 and 1992.

He got 15 years from the state and 11 years from the feds.

He appealed for the reduction in his state sentence in 1996 and got it.

Moylan, who is now retired, speculated that he must have been convinced that Adams had beaten his drug addiction.

Adams appealed to the judge again in April 1997 to let him out of prison altogether.

In an letter handwritten in block letters, Adams said he needed to help his hospitalized father.

"I think that it is very important to be with my father and help him with his medical bills," Adams wrote.

He also complained that the state prison didn't offer him the same kind of opportunity for college courses that he got in the federal prison system.

"I feel that the Maryland Department of Corrections has little to offer me," he wrote.

Moylan denied the request.

But between the earlier sentence reduction and credit for good behavior, Adams was due to be released sometime last year, said Maryland Parole Commission Chairwoman Patricia Cushwa.

She could not give Adams' projected release date, but said it was not far off when the Parole Commission let him out in June 1998.

He had served eight years, 10 months and 13 days of his original 26-year sentences, according to the Maryland Department of Corrections.

By releasing him on parole, rather than letting him serve his full sentence, the Parole Commission was able to force Adams to return to his hometown in Virginia, Cushwa said.

Prisoners who serve full sentences are released with no restrictions. Cushwa said she is seeking a change in state law to allow the Parole Commission to set conditions on all prisoners, not just those on parole.

She said Adams' drug problem is no excuse for his behavior.

"If he's loose again without help he could kill somebody the next time," she said.

Adams is released

For the first few months after his release, Adams lived quietly in the Hagerstown area as paperwork was being prepared that would allow him to return to his home in Virginia, said his probation officer, Karen Oller.

He worked steadily and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day, she said.

"He was cooperative," said Oller, who is prohibited from giving details.

The paperwork transferring Adams to Virginia came through in January and Adams moved back to Stephens City, said Brad Triplett, Adams' Virginia parole officer.

He lived with his parents, who thought he had cleaned up.

"He had a family that stood by him and was there to support him," Joyce Adams said.

He worked steady construction jobs and enjoyed playing golf, his family said.

He had learned carpentry from his father.

"I've been a carpenter all my life but he shows me things," Charles Adams said.

The Adams lost a younger son, Corey, who was killed at the age of 21 in a hunting accident.

The year was 1991, the same year Adams was first incarcerated.

"We sometimes think Chuck has never been able to deal with his brother's death. Maybe he feels like Corey should have been left behind," Joyce Adams said.

The robbery spree

Police said Adams came back to Hagerstown March 4.

At 12:50 p.m., they said, he walked into the Hagerstown Trust Co. branch on Dual Highway and demanded money.

He implied he had a weapon, but didn't show one, police said.

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