MARYLAND

State Defends Freeing Officer's Killer

Maryland corrections officials said yesterday that because he had served his sentence, they had no choice but to release a man convicted of murdering an off-duty Prince George's County police officer and a convenience store clerk.

Kenneth Lodowski, 38, was freed Wednesday from a state prison in Hagerstown after serving more than 16 years for the June 1983 shooting deaths of Carlton X. Fletcher, 31, a police officer working security at the Goddard Mini Mart in Greenbelt, and a store employee, Minh Phamdo, 20.

Lodowski's release had sparked an angry response from Prince George's County Police Chief John S. Farrell, who said he was "just shocked and outraged" that the convicted killer of a police officer was allowed back on the streets.

But Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Lodowski had fulfilled the terms of his sentence. "The state could no longer legally hold him," Sipes said.

Lodowski was sentenced to death in 1984, but he won a retrial and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in 1987. In 1992, he won another appeal and was given a 25-year sentence, Sipes said.

Police Say Driver Pointed Gun at Car

Maryland State Police said they arrested a Pennsylvania man yesterday after he pointed a handgun at another driver in an apparent fit of road rage.

Police said they responded to a call about 2:20 p.m. from a driver who said he was driving south on Interstate 95 at Route 50 in Prince George's County when he became involved in an argument with a driver. According to police, the caller said the driver pointed a handgun at him after the caller cut off the other driver's car while trying to change lanes.

Police said they stopped Kevin Gerald Battavio's silver Mitsubishi, which had Pennsylvania tags, on I-95 and found an unloaded 9mm semiautomatic handgun and two loaded ammunition magazines. Also in the car were Battavio's girlfriend and her 7-year-old child, police said.

Battavio, 25, from West Chester, Pa., is charged with transporting a handgun and reckless endangerment. He was taken to the state police barracks in Forestville. No one was injured in the incident, authorities said.

VIRGINIA

High Court to Take Murder Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether a Virginia murderer's death sentence was illegal because jurors were not allowed to hear that he would be ineligible for parole if sentenced to life in prison.

The justices will use the case of Bobby Lee Ramdass to clarify their 1994 decision that capital-case defendants sometimes must be allowed to tell sentencing juries that a life sentence would carry no chance of parole. A decision is expected by late June.

Ramdass robbed two pizza restaurants and a convenience store in Fairfax County in one week in 1992, killing convenience store clerk Mohammed Kayani. In separate trials, juries found him guilty of all three crimes. He was sentenced to death for the murder.

After all appeals were rejected in state courts, Ramdass sought help in federal court. He argued that he wrongly was barred from telling the sentencing jurors about his ineligibility for parole under Virginia's three-strikes law.

THE DISTRICT

Man Pleads Guilty to Child Sexual Abuse

A Southeast Washington man pleaded guilty yesterday to sexually assaulting his girlfriend's 10-year-old daughter, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

In a news release, U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis said that James Wade Biscoe, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree child sexual abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Biscoe, formerly of the 3300 block of 14th Place SE, is to be sentenced March 10.

Law enforcement officials said the girl told her sister and mother that Biscoe had been assaulting her while the mother was at work. According to police, after the girl's mother confronted Biscoe, he turned himself in to 3rd District police.