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Western Md. neighborhood dispute ends in fatal shooting

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A bitter months-long dispute between neighbors over the ownership of three trees ended Wednesday night when one man shot another dead with a rifle in a Western Maryland hamlet, police said.

Dennis E. Liller, 43, was shot once in the upper torso during a fistfight over the trees with his Oldtown neighbor, Michael Malaska, Maryland State Police said. Malaska’s father, Alexander E. Malaska, 69, is accused of shooting Liller and has been charged with manslaughter, police said.

The conflict on Pack Horse Trail was connected to an incident in October, when Michael Malaska allegedly cut down three trees near his house, police said. The roots of the trees reached into Malaska’s property, according to police, but the trees stood on the property of his neighbors, the Robertsons.

After the trees were felled, the Robertsons’ daughter, Kelly Spangler, made a criminal complaint against Michael Malaska, who was scheduled to appear in court next month, police said.

Michael Malaska arrived home about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to find “no trespassing” signs on the stumps of the trees. He grabbed the signs and threw them down on the Robertson’s property, said Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman. Malaska and some of the Robertsons began yelling, and someone called police, Shipley said.

Officers from the Maryland Natural Resources Police went to the scene, and thinking the argument had been resolved, they left, Shipley said.

After the officers left, the Robertsons called Spangler and told her what had happened, police said. Spangler was driving in the area with Liller, a friend of hers. Liller also lived on the same block — the 23000 block — of Pack Horse Trail.

Spangler and Liller drove to the Malaska home, and Michael Malaska was outside when they arrived, police said. Liller and Malaska were standing face to face, both angry, when Malaska bumped Liller, police said.

Liller punched Malaska in the face, and the two began to fight, police said. Alexander Malaska appeared with a .22-caliber rifle equipped with a scope, police said. He fired several times, and one round hit Liller, killing him, police said.

Alexander Malaska was being held in the Allegany County jail on $300,000 bond.

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