State prosecutors described the stabbing death of a Washington Post distributor here as a "sacrificial murder," an act of aggression directed against Howard County police in which the victim was chosen at random.
The prosecutor at a bond hearing today said the man who was arrested in the case and his friends have gotten into trouble, including several skirmishes with police. Police spokesman Martin Gavin said the youths had "bad feelings" toward police.
Donald R. DeHaney Jr., 19, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Richard C. Willard of Columbia, whose body was found about 5 a.m. Wednesday lying on the pavement outside a convenience store where he had stopped to drop off bundles of newspapers. Police found an obscene note directed at "Howard County pigs" stuffed inside Willard's jacket.
Gavin said police have not yet determined whether more than one person was involved in Willard's slaying.
During today's bond hearing Assistant State's Attorney Dwight S. Thompson said DeHaney's release would endanger the lives of people who have aided in the police investigation as well as other unnamed persons DeHaney allegedly has threatened. Thompson said some of DeHaney's friends pose a threat to those persons as well.
DeHaney, a tall, strapping youth, appeared at today's two bond hearings without his attorney. "I've never been charged with anything like this before," he told District Court Judge Diane Schulte. "I've never threatened anybody."
Thompson told the judge that DeHaney's statement was "categorically false," adding that he had threatened someone he would not name during the past week. Thompson said DeHaney told the person, "If you don't keep looking over your shoulder I'm going to waste" the person.
"I'd describe [Willard's slaying] as a sacrificial murder," Thompson told Schulte in arguing for revocation of the $100,000 bond she had set for DeHaney earlier today. Schulte agreed to revoke the bond, saying she did not know the circumstances of Willard's death when she set bond this morning.
Willard, a 36-year-old father of three, had been an independent distributor for The Post in Columbia for nine years. Robbery was immediately ruled out in his death since neither his wallet nor his van, which was still running when his body was found, was taken. Thompson told Schulte that Willard had no apparent enemies.
Willard's body was found by Mary Messineo, manager of the High's convenience store on Cradlerock Way in the Owen Brown section of Columbia. The store is about a quarter mile from Many Days Lane, a quiet cul-de-sac where DeHaney lived with his parents in a well-kept colonial style house. Messineo's parents live two doors from the DeHaney home.
Gavin said DeHaney and some his friends frequently congregated in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the Oakland Mills section of Columbia. There, he said, the youths have been disorderly and have harassed residents, prompting numerous calls to police and occasional arrests.
"There is a small group of youths that have bad feelings toward police, and [DeHaney] was one of this group," Gavin said.
Last Thursday, he said, there was a disturbance when police tried to break up a fight among about 15 youths in the parking lot. The tire on a policewoman's cruiser was slashed and one of the youths broke her windshield. Police said they did not know whether DeHaney was involved in the incident, in which one youth was arrested.
"We have had many incidents over a long period of time involving many of the same people," Lt. Michael Chinchiolo said yesterday.
The note found on Willard's body, which contained racial and sexual obscenities directed at police, prompted investigators to draw up a list of people they know of with a grudge against police.
Neighbors of the DeHaney family said yesterday that they knew Donald DeHaney had been in and out of trouble for several years, but they said they had little contact with the youth or his two older sisters.
An administrator at Hammond High School said DeHaney attended school there but withdrew before graduation. DeHaney's mother is a nurse, police said, and his father, a Department of Defense employe, is out of the country.