Montgomery County hatchet murder suspect pleads guilty, is declared insane


This image released by the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department shows Claude Alexander Allen III. The 21-year-old Montgomery County man pleaded guilty Sept. 2, 2014, to killing a friend with a hatchet, as part of the conclusion to the case that will have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. (AP/AP)
September 2

A 21-year-old Montgomery County man pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing a friend with a hatchet, as part of the conclusion to the case that will have him committed to a psychiatric hospital.

During an emotional hearing, Claude Alexander Allen III acknowledged that he used the tool last year to strike Michael Harvey in the head and neck five times. Allen’s father sat 15 feet from his son and about the same distance from relatives and friends of Harvey’s. He didn’t speak to the relatives in Montgomery Circuit Court, but before and after the hearing, he approached at least two of them, offering to meet with them later to pray.

“I could see the pain, the pain he’s going through also,” said Charlotte Harvey, the victim’s adoptive mother.

She expects that she and her husband will meet with the elder Allen and his wife.

Candace Garrett, a sister of the victim, said Allen approached her as well. “I am open to some type of prayer,” she said. “We all need it.”


Michael Harvey was killed by his friend, Claude Allen III, who was delusional and legally insane at the time. (Courtesy of Harvey family)

The calm sense of forgiveness between the two families stood in sharp contrast to the horror that unfolded the night of May 23, 2013. The attack was sparked by “a number of complex delusions and disorganized thinking” on Allen’s part, according to a report written by state psychiatrists who evaluated him.

In court Tuesday, prosecutor John Maloney laid out the events of that night. At the time, Allen was staying at his parent’s large home in Gaithersburg. They were out of town with Allen’s siblings. Allen had people over to the house, including Harvey.

At some point, delusions took over — convincing Allen that Harvey possibly thought that they were members of rival gangs and that Harvey, therefore, might hurt him.

“His delusional thoughts regarding Harvey also involved Harvey stealing from him in the past, and Harvey trying to force him to sell drugs,” psychiatrists wrote in their report, part of which was read in court.

At some point, Allen armed himself with “tactical tomahawk” he had ordered online, Maloney said, and attacked Harvey in the garage. Allen came out of the garage and told a third person, who was in the kitchen, “I took care of the person who broke in,” Maloney said.

Court records state that this third person then went back to the garage with Allen, where he saw the victim on a bloody floor. The third person and Allen then placed Harvey’s body in a large trash can.

The grisly details were nearly unbearable for Harvey’s relatives to hear. At one point, Judge Terrence McGann held up a photograph of the murder weapon for Allen to see, causing loud cries to break out. On the night of the murder, police were called to the scene and quickly placed Allen under arrest. Doctors have been evaluating and treating him.

In court Tuesday, Allen pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and McGann — citing the findings of doctors — ruled that he was not criminally responsible. In Maryland, that means he will probably be locked up at the Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric facility in Jessup. If it ever becomes possible for McGann to find him not a danger to himself, to others or to other peoples’ property, he could be released.

After the hearing, Harvey’s relatives said they worried that Allen would eventually go free. “That’s mostly my concern,” Charlotte Harvey said.

Harvey’s biological mother, Terry Garrett, had given Harvey up for adoption when he was 10, but in the meantime, Harvey had returned to her life. She spoke in court on Tuesday, directly addressing her son’s killer.

“My son trusted you. My son cared about you. I can’t believe you did this,” Garrett told Allen. “Your mom, she’s lost her baby boy, too. I forgive you, but I will never forget what happened.”

Steven Kupferberg, an attorney for Allen, said after the hearing that Allen’s father, a former top White House aide, was too upset to be interviewed.

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Post staff writer Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County, Md.
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