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Case continued for inmate accused of sending powder-filled letter

Robert Douglas Turner is charged with manufacturing a phony destructive device

June 01, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- A state prison inmate serving a 50-year sentence for murder could receive another 10 years in prison if convicted of sending a powder-filled threatening letter to a former Washington County Circuit Court judge who was the victim of a letter bombing in 1989, according to circuit court records.

Robert Douglas Turner, 38, was charged with manufacturing a phony destructive device, in the form of a letter sent in December 2008 to the law office of John P. Corderman, a former circuit judge, according to the application for statement of charges.

Turner's case was continued Tuesday to allow time for completion of a report to determine whether he is not criminally responsible, Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said.

A determination of not criminally responsible differs from a finding of incompetence to stand trial, according to the Maryland Rules of Criminal Procedure. A person can be competent to stand trial, although found not criminally responsible at the time a crime was committed, according to the rules of criminal procedure.

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Corderman did not immediately notify police when he received the letter at his Public Square office, but reported it Dec. 8, 2008, documents show.

When Corderman opened the letter and saw the white powder, he told police he thought he was "either dead or it was a hoax," the application for statement of charges said. He called police after seeing reports of similar letters being sent to state officials, court documents said.

"Inhale deeply, Jean," the letter read, according to court records. "The pipe bomb did not get you. This will ..." The powder was found to be harmless, records show.

On Dec. 22, 1989, Corderman, then a circuit court judge, was injured when a package delivered to his apartment exploded. Corderman spent three days in the hospital with injuries to his hand, abdomen and ear drums, according to published reports.

The envelope sent to Corderman in December 2008 had a return address with Turner's name and his inmate number at the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., the application for statement of charges said.

Investigators allege that a left thumb print found on the letter was Turner's. A sample of Turner's handwriting was provided by prison officials, documents show.

Turner pleaded guilty in 1995 to first-degree murder in the Sept. 7, 1994, stabbing death of Mark Lowery, according to court records. Lowery was found dead in his South Cannon Avenue apartment with a single knife wound to the heart, according to a published report.

In 1996, Turner sent a threatening letter to the judge who sentenced him for the murder, Judge Frederick C. Wright III.

"When I get out, I'll blow your brains out," Turner wrote in the letter, according to a published report.

Turner pleaded guilty to threatening a state official, and three years were added to his 50-year sentence, according to a published report.

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