Bernard C. Welch was indicted yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting of Washington cardiologist Michael Halberstam on Dec. 5.
The 11-count indictment said that Welch shot Halberstam with a pistol during an attemped burglary of Halberstam's Northwest Washington home. The indictment also charged Welch with committing four additional burglaries in Washington on the same day Halberstam was killed. In addition, Welch was charged with carrying a pistol without a license.
Welch is expected to be arraigned at Superior Court within 10 days. The accused master thief -- linked by police to more than 200 burglaries, rapes and other offenses in the Washington area -- has been held without bond at D.c. jAil since his arrest.
If Welch is convicted of the murder charge, he could be sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life.
Because Welch has a prior record of felony convictions -- he is an escapee from an upstate New York prison -- the firearms violation with which he was charged could also result under D. C. law in another stiff prison term.
In addition to the Halberstam murder and burglary charges, Welch was charged with burglary and grand larceny for allegedly stealing jewelry, money, wristwatches, credit cards and other valuables from four other homes in Northwest Washington. The indictment listed the homes as those of Julio and M. Jeanne Heurtematte, Omelan and Tatiana Antonovych, Karl and Monique Lass, and Patricia O'Brien.
Prosecutors declined to comment yesterday on Welch's indictment. Welch's attorney, Sol Z. Rosen, could not be reached for comment.
The indictment comes just one day after it was reported that Welch has admitted in a soon-to-be-published magazine interview that he has lived a life of crime, amassing great amounts of stolen property and leaving a trail of victims that he described as a "who's who of Washington politics." However, in the interview, which will appear in next month's Life magazine, Welch sidesteps the issue of whether he shot and killed Halberstam, according to Life editors. Welch also does not refer by name to the Washington burglaries for which he was indicted yesterday, the editors said.
Welch is not expected to be tried for several months. The trial date depends in part on how long it takes for an independent psychiatric evaluation requested by his attorney to be made. No announcement has yet been made as to which Superior Court judge will be assigned the case.