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Man pleads guilty in 2008 Hancock standoff

September 23, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- The man who pretended to hold his pregnant fiancee hostage in a Hancock hotel during a two-day standoff with police in August 2008 pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to making an arson threat and possession of marijuana for that incident.

James Abraham Prevatt III, 27, formerly of Moncks Corner, S.C., also pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary at the Clear Spring McDonald's restaurant and four counts of first-degree burglary for a string of residential burglaries committed in the summer of 2008.

Under a plea agreement, three charges related to the standoff and 28 charges related to the burglaries were dropped. Also, the state is seeking a sentence of five years for the arson threat and no more than 20 years of active incarceration for the burglaries, Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said.

His parents came up from South Carolina to be at the courthouse Wednesday morning. They brought Prevatt's son, for whom they are guardians. The child was born shortly after the standoff.

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The boy's mother, 22-year-old Rene Reynolds, is serving a 12-year sentence after pleading guilty in January to conspiring to threaten arson during a standoff with police at America's Best Value Inn in Hancock.

Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer ordered a presentence investigation be completed before Prevatt is sentenced. He expects Prevatt to be sentenced during the week of Nov. 9, Dwyer said.

Michael told the judge he hopes the sentencing is soon. Prevatt has made some attempts on his life and is a concern for the warden at the Washington County Detention Center, Michael said.

Assistant Public Defender Carl Creeden said Prevatt was not found by mental health experts to not be criminally responsible for his actions but is, "about as close to it as can be." At sentencing, he said, he will ask the judge to consider sending Prevatt to Patuxent Institution, a residential facility for mentally ill inmates.

As he answered the judge's questions, Prevatt listed five prescribed drugs he takes, including lithium and Prozac, for bipolar disorder.

Prevatt started having mental issues as early as kindergarten, his mother, Judith Prevatt, said after Wednesday's hearing. He has spent time at a mental health clinic in Florida and in prison in Virginia, she said. He tried to commit suicide the last time he was living at their home, she said.

Many of the burglary charges stem from information provided by Prevatt's cousin, Betty Peck, 25, who told investigators Prevatt was involved in nine burglaries and six thefts in the Tri-State area in the month leading up to the standoff, an investigator wrote in charging documents. Two of the thefts were in Pennsylvania, one was in West Virginia and one was in Frederick County, Md.; the other 11 incidents were in Washington County, court documents show.

Peck, 25, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said Prevatt and Reynolds began using marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy while they stayed with her family from May to July, a Maryland State Police investigator wrote in charging documents.

It was Peck's parents who alerted investigators to Prevatt's presence at the Hancock motel, Michael said.

In mid-July 2008, Prevatt's uncle discovered he was wanted in South Carolina, and Prevatt, Reynolds and Betty Peck moved in with Peck's friend, Heather Miley, 28, of Hagerstown, the investigator wrote. Peck told investigators there were numerous times she and Reynolds dropped Prevatt off near homes he broke into and picked him up with stolen items, the investigator wrote. Miley also confirmed details about several incidents.

The incidents included the July 18, 2008, theft of almost $7,000 from a Clear Spring McDonald's and thefts of electronic items, jewelry, credit cards, weapons and currency from homes, Michael said Wednesday in court.

Reynolds pawned some of those items, including rare coins, but many of those items were recovered from Prevatt's motel room, Michael said.

Peck was charged via criminal summons with six counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary, court records show. Miley was charged via criminal summons with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary, court records show.

Court records available online show Peck pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to commit first-degree burglary and one count of conspiring to commit second-degree burglary. She is serving a two-year sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup, Md., online records show.

Miley pleaded guilty to the same charges and also is being held at the women's prison in Jessup, online records show.

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