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Boy's killing may be capital crime

November 22, 2000

Boy's killing may be capital crime



Sex charges, death penalty eyed in boy's death

By DAVID DISHNEAU Associated Press Writer


FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - Frederick County prosecutors disclosed evidence Wednesday of a sexual assault that could lead them to seek the death penalty for a homeless man accused of fatally beating and strangling a 9-year-old boy.

Preliminary autopsy results included discovery of semen on the boy's leg, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle said. Prosecutors said they would consider seeking the death penalty against the mildly mentally retarded man if further investigation reveals anal or oral penetration, grounds for a charge of first-degree sex offense.

Elmer Spencer Jr., 44, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of Christopher Ausherman, whose battered, naked body was found a day earlier in a dugout of a Little League baseball field. Maryland law provides for the death penalty only when a premeditated murder is combined with certain other offenses, including first-degree sex offense.

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Spencer, released from prison just five days before the boy's death, remained jailed without bail Wednesday. At a brief hearing, his public defender waived a bond review but reserved the right to seek bond reduction later. The defense lawyer, Darah Kehnemuyi, declined to comment on the case.

Rolle and Deputy State's Attorney J. Charles Smith said they expect to take the case to a grand jury, possibly as early as Dec. 1, to seek an indictment on the murder allegation and any other charges supported by the evidence.

Spencer, communicating with District Judge Milnor Roberts through a video hookup, spoke only once during the proceeding, answering, "Yes, I can," when Roberts asked if he could hear.

Frederick police said preliminary autopsy results showed Ausherman died Sunday from blunt trauma and strangulation. Court records described the body as covered with blood and dirt. A pool of blood stood in one corner of the dugout, and the cinderblock walls were smeared with bloody hand prints, according to the document.

Police arrested Spencer at a homeless shelter Monday night and charged him Tuesday morning. He had been mandatorily released from the Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown Nov. 14 after serving about 3 1/2 years of a 10-year sentence for assaulting a woman and escaping from the arresting officer.

Spencer had served two previous prison terms, for child sexual assault and battery convictions, both in Carroll County, Md., according to court documents. His record also includes charges of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in Frederick County in 1996 and assaulting, with intent to murder, an 8-year-old boy in Baltimore County in 1995. The charges were dropped in both cases.

Leonard Sipes, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Spencer was released early from his latest prison term because of good-time credits accrued during the more than 13 years he served of a 21-year sentence for the Carroll County child sexual assault in 1981.

Rolle said Maryland's prisoner-release laws should be tightened. "For someone to get 10 years in jail and get out in 3 1/2 is outrageous," he said.

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