ANNAPOLIS, JULY 10 -- The brother of a man convicted of killing his parents six years ago was charged with murder today in the stabbing of a 57-year-old Annapolis man, Anne Arundel County police said.
Michael David Swartz, 24, whose younger brother, Larry, is serving a 12-year prison sentence for the grisly and highly publicized deaths of their adoptive parents, was arrested at an Annapolis hotel late Monday after he telephoned police with details about the slaying that evening of Robert Austin Bell, police said.
Bell, described by neighbors as a freelance repairer of air conditioners and motors, apparently was killed during an attempted robbery, said Officer V. Richard Molloy, a police spokesman. Molloy said that Swartz and two other area men had gone to Bell's home to steal a large jar of quarters Bell kept in his bedroom. The jar was missing when investigators arrived.
"They went to the house under the ruse of asking for a loan. One was supposed to go sneak up and grab the quarters while the other talked to Bell," Molloy said. "Evidently, something went wrong." Bell was stabbed several times in the upper torso and his body was discovered on the kitchen floor by a newspaper carrier who had come to collect payment, he said.
Police have issued arrest warrants for two other area men believed to have been involved in the robbery and killing. They were identified as Ronald Loman Scoates, 30, a close friend of Bell's who was in Bell's home with Swartz at the time of the slaying, according to police, and Henry Louis Stettler IV, 27, who police allege drove the car in which the trio fled.
Stettler is the son of Maryland's deputy state treasurer, H. Louis Stettler III, a budget secretary in the administration of former governor Harry Hughes. Today, the elder Stettler said he speaks to his son, who lives alone and works as a carpenter, only occasionally and had not heard from him since Monday.
Stettler said his son has been arrested for drunken driving and had his license suspended, but has never been involved in a crime of violence to his knowledge.
Swartz is being held at the county jail in lieu of $200,000 bond. Assistant State's Attorney Virginia Miles said he has been working as a carpenter for several years and has no adult criminal record. Miles said that Swartz led investigators to a 10-inch knife apparently used in Bell's slaying. The knife was recovered along with a bloody towel.
Officials involved in investigating the 1984 stabbing and ax murders of Swartz's parents, Robert and Kathryn Swartz, said they were saddened by the news of his arrest. Initially, Michael Swartz was a suspect in his parents' violent deaths because he had been in trouble as a youth and his parents had kicked him out of their house and gone to court to have him made a ward of the state, said Circuit Judge Warren Duckett, who was Anne Arundel's state's attorney at the time.
Duckett said Larry Swartz tried to blame the murders on his brother by repeatedly telling investigators of Michael's stormy relationship with their parents. Michael was cleared when detectives determined he was at a state pyschiatric hospital at the time of the slayings. Larry Swartz was charged and pleaded guilty to the crimes.
Robert Swartz was stabbed 17 times and Kathryn Swartz was bludgeoned with a wooden maul, her nude body left in the snow next to the family's swimming pool.
In an effort to find a motive for the killings, prosecutors and defense lawyers looked to the strict and demanding upbringing the religious Swartzes had given their son, the product of several foster homes before his adoption.