The Star-Democrat from Easton, Maryland on January 22, 2006 · Page 6
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The Star-Democrat from Easton, Maryland · Page 6

Easton, Maryland
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Page 6
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By RANDALL CHASE Associated Press Writer DOVER,DEL.(AP) — State police have arrested a suspect in the 1991 murder of a Kent County, Del. woman, but family members still have questions about the death of 70- year-old Dorothy May Donovan. Police announced Friday that Gilbert E. Cannon, 41, a career criminal from Delmar, Md., is charged with first- degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and first-degree burglary in connection with Donovan’s death. Cannon was arrested Wednesday at a Selbyville apartment complex. He is being held without bail at the Sussex County Correctional Institution. Cannon, whose criminal history in Delaware dates to 1981 and includes convictions for theft, burglary, assault, resisting arrest and two escapes, bears a strong resemblance to a composite sketch of a suspect made after Donovan was found stabbed to death in the bedroom of her rural farmhouse near Harrington. But he was not linked to Donovan’s death until November, when authorities discovered that a DNA sample taken from him before he was released from a Maryland prison in December 2004 after serving time for robbery matched a profile in an FBI database. Delaware authorities had entered a DNA profile taken from blood found in Donovan’s home into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System in May 2004. In addition to the DNA match, a palm print taken after Cannon’s arrest this week matched a bloody print left on a bannister in Donovan’s home, authorities said. The Donovan case stymied law enforcement officials for years, winning a spot on television’s “Unsolved Mysteries” and piquing the interest of FBI specialists, who concluded from the evidence that Donovan probably knew her killer. While investigators conducted numerous interviews over the years, Cannon’s name did not surface until Maryland authorities alerted Delaware law enforcement officials of the DNA match. “We did not know who Gilbert Cannon was until we had the hit in November 2005,” said state police super- intendent Col. Thomas MacLeish. State police Sgt. William Marvel said investigators have no indication that Cannon knew Donovan and have not established a motive for the killing. But Donovan’s daughters, Diana Abbott of Ellendale and Brenda Alexander of Wyoming, still wonder why their brother, Charles Holden of Bridgeville, who lived in a trailer next to Donovan’s home, was with Cannon shortly before the murder. “There’s been so many questions concerning this murder,” said Abbott, 51, who attended Friday’s police news conference with her sister. Holden, 55, has told investigators in the past that a man approached him at a fast-food restaurant on the night of the murder and asked for a ride to a local hospital because someone was having a baby. Holden said he gave the man a ride, but that it ended in an altercation when the hitchhiker tried to steal his truck. Holden said he left the man on the side of the road near Donovan’s house and drove off into the night, taking a roundabout way home along back roads so the hitchhiker he dumped would not know where he lived. Upon arriving home, Holden has said, he saw the hitchhiker standing on the steps of his trailer and drove off to call Harrington police. By the time he and officers returned almost two hours later, Donovan was dead, having suffered multiple stab wounds. Abbott refused to comment when asked whether she thought her brother, with whom she has not spoken in several years, was involved in her mother’s murder. “I have mixed emotions about the case, to be honest,” she said. “I don’t want to go into details at this time. ... There’s still some questions in my mind about what happened that night.” Attempts to reach Holden, who has an unlisted telephone number and did not attend Friday’s news conference, were not immediately successful. Marvel said he believes Cannon acted alone in killing Donovan, but that the investigation is continuing. “At this time, the only defendant is Cannon,” said deputy attorney general Stephen Welch. “This case is ongoing.” MARYLAND SUNDAY, JANUARY 22,2006 A6 THE SUNDAY STar STATE BRIEFS Join us at Big Bats for great food and great entertainment $5 Off Second Dinner Entree with Ad* DJ Chris Startt Every Thursday DJ Crazy Que Every Saturday Chuckie Luv Karaoke Every Wednesday Don’t forget Big Bats Gift Cards make a great gift. Teal Drive behind Giant • 410-820-4050 *Offergood at Easton and Kent Island locations. 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GOING...GOING...GONE Auction at HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS KENT ISLAND 1020 KENT NARROWS RD.RT.50 (EXIT 42) SUNDAY,JAN.22 • 2 PM Terms and Conditions of AUCTION: • All import duties,taxes and freight paid. • No liens,encumbrances or outstanding charges. • No delivery,goods released only for immediate disposal,payment and removal. • Each bale will be unwrapped and pieces tagged individually for public inspection. • Each place will be auction liquidated singly piece by piece to the highest bidder. • In accordance with U.S.government laws each carpet labeled with country of origin, fiber content,and certified genuine handmade. Do not miss this auction! 301-330-1333 Terms:Cash,Check,Visa,M/C,Discover,AM-EX Auction 2 pm Showing 1 pm THE COLLECTION WILL BE AUCTIONED PIECE BY PIECE NO BUYER PREMIUM Judge strikes down same-sex marriage law By CONNOR ADAMS SHEETS Capital News Service ANNAPOLIS — A Baltimore judge struck down the 1973 Maryland law banning same-sex marriage Friday, ruling that “tradition and social values alone” can not be used to justify discrimination. Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock stayed action on her own ruling in anticipation of an appeal, which the state Attorney General immediately announced would be forthcoming. Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wasted no time in expressing disappointment over the decision, as did many politicians of both parties, who will be facing the voters in statewide elections this fall. “I am evaluating all options available to guarantee that marriage in Maryland remains a protected union between a man and a woman,” the governor said in a statement issued by his office. “I have asked the attorney general to immediately begin a vigorous appeals process.” But sponsors of the lawsuit expressed delight at the ruling. “I would say that we are elated that Judge Murdock has confirmed what we have long believed” about the prohibition, “that it is unjust,” said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, which filed the suit along with American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of nine gay couples who applied for, and one person who hoped to apply for, marriage licenses. The suit was filed against circuit court clerks in five counties who refused to grant marriage licenses to the plaintiffs. “I think it’s wonderful a judge has taken an approach of fairness,” said Patrick Wojahn, a plaintiff in the case along with partner David Kolesar, “But we have a ways to go before we are certain we have achieved equality.” Ryan Killough of East New Market said he and his partner Steve Palmer, both plaintiffs in the case, are celebrating the ruling, but they are “cautiously optimistic” because an appeal is likely. “It’s a big step toward equal rights in Maryland,” Killough said. In her 20-page ruling, Murdock acknowledged “dramatic impact” of the ruling, but said the court “must not shy away from deciding significant legal issues.” Specifically, Murdock said, the law was unconstitutional “because it discriminates based on gender against a suspect class; and is not narrowly tailored to serve any compelling governmental interests.” She added: “When tradition is the guise under which prejudice or animosity hides, it is not a legitimate state interest.” In 1973 the General Assembly passed the same-sex marriage prohibition, which said only heterosexual marriages are valid in the state. This came several months after Maryland voters ratified a constitutional provision that stated that “the equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex.” “We think the judge is completely wrong,” said Lee Merrell, the director of the Christian Coalition of Maryland. “For 30 years the law’s been constitutional and now the law’s been declared not constitutional and the only thing that changed was the judge.” Not more than two hours after the ruling, legislators got a taste of the political volatility of the issue when a debate over same sex marriage broke out on the floor of the House of Delegates that Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, characterized as “high drama.” Minority Whip Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert and Saint Mary’s, was ruled out of order by Busch for repeatedly mentioning the issue of gay marriage during a debate over a House rule change. “Democracy is not afraid of debate. Tyranny is afraid of debate,” O’Donnell said. “I’m not even sure what I can say and what I can’t.” O’Donnell later said he believed much of the rancor stemmed from the controversial ruling. He said that Democratic legislators are avoiding the issue because they fear an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman would pass and they do not want to have to declare their positions with a vote. “It will have a tremendous impact on the next election,” Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R — Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester, said. “The Democrats will have to deal with it. It puts them on record, they have to put their vote up on the board.” Indeed, Democrats seem inclined to avoid the issue altogether. “If there’s a court case pending, we’ve been advised over the years that we can’t get involved with an issue,” said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County. Sen. Richard E. Colburn, R-Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico, has co-sponsored legislation in the past which would establish that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid, and would result in the submission of a constitutional amendment for public vote. “Marriage between a man and a woman predates government in world history,” he said. “Many have told us that we don’t need a constitutional amendment — that Maryland law states that marriage is between a man and a woman. This judge in Baltimore City is obviously telling us we need a constitutional amendment.” Currently, 19 states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Massachusetts is the only state in the country that allows the practice. Ryan Killough, left, and Steve Palmer of Dorchester County were among the plaintiffs who challenged Maryland’s ban on same-sex marriages. AP PHOTO Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich speaks during a news conference Friday about a ruling by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock that struck down Maryland’s 33-year-old law against same-sex marriage. General Assembly passed same-sex marriage prohibition in 1973 The suit was filed against circuit court clerks in five counties who refused to grant marriage licenses to the plaintiffs. Police arrest Maryland man in 1991 murder of elderly woman The Donovan case stymied law enforcement officials for years, winning a spot on television’s “Unsolved Mysteries.” Ehrlich will propose slots legislation By GEORGE ALTMAN Capital News Service ANNAPOLIS — For the fourth consecutive year, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. plans to back legislation that would allow slot machines at Maryland racetracks, despite defeats in each of his previous attempts. “There’s no greater advocate for horse racing and horse farms than Gov. Ehrlich,” said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the governor. Ehrlich’s efforts to pass the slots bill, which was on a list released Thursday previewing his legislative agenda, may be more difficult this year because the state’s large budget surplus has eased pressure on state legislators to fund new sources of revenue. Ehrlich had argued in past years that gambling revenue was needed by the state to fund important programs and to save Maryland racing. In 2006, however, the state’s coffers are flush with a $1.2 billion surplus — reflected by the $29.6 billion budget proposed by Ehrlich Tuesday. “Any enthusiasm for gambling is waning among the legislators. It’s tough to see what the justification is,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, a leading opponent of past slots legislation. Fawell acknowledged the challenge that passing the slots bill will likely present, laying blame for past defeats at the feet of Busch. “The governor is not naive about the Speaker’s unwillingness to negotiate, but he made a commitment to the citizens of Maryland to get [the slots legislation] through and he’s attempting to do that,” Fawell said. The bill may closely resemble its predecessors. It is expected to allow up to 15,500 slot machines at four racetracks, and an undesignated location in the I- 95 corridor. Despite their past victories and favorable position due to the budget surplus, opponents of the legislation are not yet ready to declare victory. “The governor in this state is the strongest chief executive of any state in the country, so it’s always going to be a difficult fight,” said W. Minor Carter, an Annapolis lawyer and anti-slots lobbyist. Carter said defeat of the slots bill is important to controlling the gambling lobby, whose contaminating influence he believes is underscored by the Congressional scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Other bills included in Ehrlich’s legislative package are aimed at encouraging energy conservation, promoting biotechnology research in Maryland and protecting children from sex offenders. Four-year-old boy hit by stray bullet COLUMBIA (AP) — A 4-year-old boy was shot and seriously injured inside his apartment by a stray bullet fired outside the building, Howard County police said. The boy, who was not identified, was being treated at the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. Friday, authorities said. Police said the shooting may be connected to an altercation about 5:45 p.m. at Long Reach Village Shopping Center across the street from the boy’s apartment.

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