A 36-year-old Chillum Heights man who has been taken to a facility for treatment of mental problems nine times by Prince George's County deputies was arrested yesterday and charged with first-degree murder in the death of his mother.
Norman Edward Bachman, the unemployed son of Eleanor Bachman, a retired civil servant, was picked up by police at 11 a.m. yesterday, about 3 1/2 hours after a neighbor saw the woman lying motionless on a living room couch in the house she shared with her son at 6834 Riggs Rd., Prince George's County police said.
"A neighbor said he had looked into her window and saw Mrs. Bachman on a sofa," police spokesman Robert Law said. "Her little pet dog was jumping on her, but she was not moving. So he called the police."
Eleanor Bachman, 63, apparently died Tuesday night or yesterday morning, Law said. The state medical examiner's office listed smothering as the cause of death.
Police said no motive has been established in the killing.
Bachman's death came three weeks after Norman Bachman was picked up by police for shoplifting. His mother, asked about releasing him, told court officials she would "sign him out maybe tomorrow to teach him a lesson," court records show.
In that incident, Bachman was charged with theft for shoplifting a pair of sneakers, a shirt, two cartons of cigarettes and two pairs of women's underwear from the Jamesway Department Store in Laurel, according to court records.
Norman Bachman later pleaded guilty to the theft charge and was given credit for the two days he spent in the county detention center.
In 1982, Bachman pleaded guilty in District Court after police charged him with disorderly conduct for holding up traffic and swearing at officers who had stopped him on East-West Highway for a traffic violation.
Prince George's Sheriff James Aluisi said his specialized service team served emergency psychiatric petitions on Norman Bachman nine times since 1980, the last time on June 10. Aluisi said each time a petition is served, a patient is taken to the closest emergency medical facility, in this case Prince George's General Hospital.
A spokesman for Prince George's General Hospital would not comment on Bachman's cases. The spokesman said that patients brought to the hospital are evaluated by a physician within six hours and a decision is made to admit or release the patient. If the patient is held for more evaluation, the spokesman said, an involuntary commitment hearing is held within five days. If the patient is found not to be a danger to himself or to others, then the patient is released, she said.
In their current investigation, police talked to several neighbors of the Bachmans, Law said, including one who told investigators that he had talked to Norman Bachman about 6:15 a.m. yesterday as Bachman stood in the front doorway of his house. That neighbor also saw Eleanor Bachman on the sofa during his conversation with her son, Law said.
Norman Bachman was not at the house when police entered, Law said. He said neighbors told police to look for his red Mustang. Police said they found Norman Bachman driving along East-West Highway in Hyattsville and he surrended without resistance.
Neighbors of the Bachmans said they had never heard the mother and son arguing. Bachman's father died in 1982.
The Bachman case is the third slaying to come to light in the metropolitan area this week in which suspects had histories of mental problems.
In a recent case in the District, a man who had been involuntarily committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital for psychiatric evaluation after a barricade incident in the District was released after doctors concluded that he was not a danger to himself or to others. The man, Kenneth Dion Hubbard, of 4832 Queens Chapel Ter. NE, was charged on Monday with felony murder in the death of Peggy Russell Gee, one of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's top reelection campaign aides. Thomas Franklin Smith III, 31, sentenced to life in prison this week by a Montgomery County judge, also suffered from pyschological problems before killing his estranged wife, Patricia, last August.
At his sentencing hearing two days ago, Smith told the judge that he spent several days undergoing psychiatric treatment at Montgomery General Hospital after telling his attorney that he was "losing it, and that I was afraid that I would hurt myself or Patsy."