Edgewood Woman Convicted of Arson and Felony Murder

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: October 25, 2022
RE: Multiple Homicide convictions

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced that yesterday afternoon, a Harford County jury found Bobbie Sue Hodge, 63, of Edgewood, Maryland, guilty of arson in the first degree, four counts of felony murder, and three counts of assault in the second degree stemming from an arson that occurred on May 9, 2019, at 1862 Simons Court in Edgewood, Maryland. Ms. Hodge faces a maximum penalty of four life sentences plus 60 years.

On May 9, 2019, at 2:28 a.m., a third-floor occupant of the dwelling, Ernest Lee, called 911 to report a fire at 1862 Simons Court. Members of the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department were the first engine to respond to the fire. By 2:35 a.m. when the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department arrived, the third floor of the townhouse was completely engulfed in fire. Abingdon Volunteer Fire Department, Bel Air Volunteer Fire Department, Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department, and Baltimore County-Kingsville Volunteer Fire Department, also responded to the fire. Ernest Lee, Dionne Hill, and Kimberly Shupe who were all on the third floor perished in the fire. Another third-floor occupant was able to escape the fire by jumping out of his thirdfloor bedroom window. He sustained a broken ankle and arm. The Defendant and two other basement occupants were able to escape to safety. Mary Elizabeth Kennedy who was living on the second floor was rescued by fire personnel and transported to an area hospital for treatment of her burns. Ms. Kennedy later died from her injuries on January 22, 2020.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions, and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office conducted a joint investigation of the fire. After interviewing numerous witnesses including the occupants of the house, neighbors, and the Defendant, review of the 911 calls, and consulting with experts at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions, the Defendant was arrested for arson and murder.

The jury trial took place from October 5, 2022, until the verdict was reached on October 24, 2022.

“This tragedy shocked our Harford County community,” said Mr. Peisinger. “It is my hope that this verdict is a first step towards healing for the surviving victims and the families of those who lost loved ones.”

Mr. Peisinger thanked the Maryland State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions, and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for their joint efforts in the investigation and arrest of Bobbie Sue Hodge. He also thanked Assistant State’s Attorneys Angela Diehl and Timothy Doory for their extraordinary advocacy that resulted in the verdict. Mr. Peisinger additionally thanked the Honorable Paul Ishak for diligently and patiently conducting the trial.

Multiple Individuals Convicted of Conspiring to Import Large Amount of Cocaine into Harford County

MEDIA RELEASE

DATE: July 18, 2022

RE: Convictions of Geofrey Raheim Brown, Keneil Carlos Callender, and Danita Ginette Cromwell

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the
convictions of Geofrey Raheim Brown, 29, of Bel Air, Maryland, Keneil Carlos Callender, 32, of Edgewater,
New Jersey, and Danita Ginette Cromwell, 46, of Elkton, Maryland for conspiracy to import into Maryland at
least 28 grams of cocaine.

Between the months of August, 2021 and November, 2021, the Harford County Narcotics Task Force
conducted a lengthy investigation involving numerous individuals engaged in a drug trafficking conspiracy
throughout Harford County. Utilizing court ordered surveillance, investigators identified Geoffrey Raheim
Brown as an importer of illicit narcotics and Keneil Carlos Callender as his supplier.

Through additional surveillance methods, Task Force detectives and federal agents of the United States Drug
Enforcement Administration observed a meeting between Geoffrey Brown and Keneil Callender at Keneil
Callender’s residence in New Jersey for the purpose of acquiring cocaine. Subsequent to that meeting,
investigators became aware that Geofrey Brown utilized couriers to make trips from Maryland to Keneil
Callender’s residence in New Jersey to acquire illegal narcotics for street level distribution. One of the couriers,
identified as Danita Ginette Cromwell, met with Keniel Callender on November 12, 2021 at Geofrey Brown’s
direction at a restaurant in New Jersey. Following this meeting, Danita Cromwell drove back to Maryland,
where she was then stopped by law enforcement. During a search of her vehicle, investigators recovered more
than 300 grams of cocaine and more than 100 grams of a cutting agent. Also seized were 336 grams of
marijuana. The drugs that were seized were intended to be delivered to Geofrey Brown so he could redistribute
them in Harford County.

On July 18, 2022, the Honorable Emory A. Plitt Jr. sentenced Geofrey Raheim Brown to 12 years of
incarceration to be served at the Division of Corrections. Upon release, Mr. Brown will be subject to four years
of supervised probation with an additional 13 of incarceration should he violate. Keneil Carlos Callender was
sentenced to 11 years of incarceration to be served at the Division of Corrections. Upon his release, Mr.
Callender would be subject three years of probation and an additional nine years of incarceration should he
violate. Danita Ginette Cromwell’s sentencing was set for November 14, 2022.

Mr. Peisinger thanked Assistant State’s Attorneys Christopher J. Romano and Jennifer Jaskulski-Tripp who
prosecuted this matter and commended the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force, Maryland
State Police, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Aberdeen Police Department, the Havre
de Grace Police Department, the Bel Air Police Department, the Cecil County Drug Task Force, the Baltimore
County Police Department, the Bergen County New Jersey Police Department, and the Maryland State Police
Forensic Sciences Division for their hard work and dedication to conducting the investigation which resulted in
the arrest and convictions of Geofrey Raheim Brown, Keneil Carlos Callender, and Danita Ginette Cromwell.

Edgewood Man Indicted for Second Degree Murder

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: July 7, 2022
RE: Indictment of James Sanders

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced that a Harford County Grand Jury has indicted James Marnell Sanders, 35, for murder in the second degree and related charges including child abuse resulting in the death of his 5-year-old son.

On Thursday, May 5, 2022, at approximately 10:45 p.m., emergency services personnel responded to Route 24 just north of Edgewood Road for a report of a collision with a pedestrian and a child. Upon arrival, first responders found James Sanders and his 5-year-old son Trayln Sanders on scene and transported them to area hospitals. Trayln was sent to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries, while James Sanders was taken to University of Maryland Shock Trauma.

An investigation by the Maryland State Police, which included witness interviews and surveillance camera footage, revealed that James Sanders and Trayln Sanders had tried to cross Route 24 and were almost struck by a vehicle. Mr. Sanders continued to try and cross the intersection with Trayln, despite oncoming traffic and not crossing in a designated crosswalk. A 2018 Toyota RAV4 that had the steady green signal then struck both Mr. James Sanders and Trayln.

When officers arrived at the crash scene, they could smell a strong odor of alcohol on Mr. Sanders. Blood tests were administered, and an analysis revealed that Mr. Sanders had an approximate blood alcohol content of a little more than four times the legal limit of intoxication.
Mr. Peisinger thanked and commended the Maryland State Police for its thorough investigation and all the first responders who responded to this scene.

All criminal defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court. An indictment is a charging instrument reviewed by a Grand Jury and not proof of guilt.

Edgewood Man Receives Life Sentence Plus an Additional 45 Years for Gang Related Murder

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: June 10, 2022
RE: Rahzir Meyers sentenced in Gang Murder Conviction

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the sentencing of Rahzir Meyers, 21, from Edgewood, Maryland, for murder in the first degree, gang and firearm offenses.

On July 4, 2019 at 12:19 a.m., Harford County Sheriff’s Office Deputies responded to 1942 Eloise Lane in Edgewood, Maryland for a report of a shooting. Upon arrival, deputies and EMS learned that Khalil Johnson had been shot in the back and that the bullet exited through his chest. Johnson was transported to University of Maryland, Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where, despite life saving measures, he succumbed from his injuries.

An investigation, which involved several tips including anonymous witnesses, revealed that Rahzir Meyers was a member of the 400 Tree Top Piru gang which was in a feud with a local subset of the Crips gang. Witnesses stated that at the time of the murder, Rahzir Meyers stood on Brookside Drive and fired a handgun in the direction of Eloise Lane and victim Khalil Johnson. Further, video surveillance captured by Harford County Watch Surveillance cameras showed several individuals standing on Brookside Drive with at least one suspect firing a handgun in the direction of Eloise Lane and the victim Khalil Johnson. The video also shows Johnson running from the scene in the direction of 1942 Eloise Lane where he later collapsed. Multiple firearm casings were recovered from the area where the suspects were standing as well as a laser gun attachment. It was later determined that Rahzir Meyers’ DNA was on the gun attachment.

Witnesses also stated that there was a group of people hanging out in the area most of the late afternoon and evening hours of July 3rd through early hours of July 4th. The group included children, adults and others from the neighborhood who were out celebrating when the shooting occurred.

Following a two-week jury trial before the Honorable M. Elizabeth Bowen, a jury ultimately found Mr. Meyers guilty of murder in the first degree, participating in a criminal organization in the commission of a crime that results in death as well as a multitude of firearm offenses. After listening to victim impact statements from Kahlil Johnson’s family and friends, Judge Bowen sentenced him to life in prison with an additional 45 years which will all be served in the Division of Corrections.

“As this complex prosecution and today’s sentence shows, we will use every tool and every resource at our disposal to eradicate brutal and senseless acts of gang violence and hold offenders accountable through lengthy prison sentences,” said Mr. Peisinger. “My heart goes out to Khalil Johnson’s family and I hope this conviction and sentence brings some closure to them.”

Mr. Peisinger further thanked Judge Bowen and the jurors who deliberated the case. He also praised the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, as well as all other first responders for their efforts in rendering aid at the scene and for the extensive investigation that resulted in the conviction and sentence of Mr. Meyers. Additionally, he commended Assistant State’s Attorneys Erin Smith and Toi Mason for their incredible advocacy in this highly intricate case.

Baltimore Man Receives 92 Years for First Degree Murder and Related Charges

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: June 9, 2022
RE: Sheron Garrett Sentencing

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the sentencing of Sheron Garrett, from Baltimore, Maryland, for murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, and possession of a regulated firearm by a person with a felony conviction.

On September 29, 2019, Harford County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to 1931 Edgewater Drive for a reported shooting. Upon arrival, deputies located Deandre Sellers, who was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Despite immediate life-saving efforts by deputies and emergency services personnel, Mr. Sellers succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased. Detectives responded to the scene and began an investigation. Witnesses at the scene revealed to investigators that Mr. Sellers was involved in a verbal altercation earlier that day which ended with a threat of violence against him. A further argument was reported at approximately 6:55 that evening just before three gunshots rang out.

Investigators located and collected three shell casings from the scene of the murder, as well as a cleaning rod to an SKS assault rifle. Seven days later, the SKS assault rifle itself was found by a concerned citizen and reported to law enforcement. Investigators were able to recover a fingerprint from tape around the gun and matched that fingerprint to Sheron Garrett. Further forensic testing by the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division confirmed this weapon fired the casings at the murder scene. Mr. Garrett denied having been in Harford County on September 29 or for months prior, but cell data analysis provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation demonstrated that he traveled from his home in Baltimore City to scene of the murder at the time of the shooting.

Following a multi-day jury trial in front of the Honorable Kevin J. Mahoney that began on March 23, 2022, the jury ultimately found him guilty of murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, and possession of a regulated firearm by a person with a felony conviction. At today’s sentencing, after considering impact statements provided by Deandre Sellers’ mother and father, Judge Mahoney sentenced Sheron Garrett to an aggregate 92 years of incarceration to be served at the Division of Corrections. Should he be released, Mr. Garrett will be subject to five years of supervised probation and an additional two life sentence should he be found in violation of that probation.

“Sheron Garrett deserved and received a significant sentence for this senseless and violent act that terrorized this neighborhood,” said Harford County State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger, Jr. “This should serve as a message to all, that violence will not be tolerated in Harford County and I will continue to pursue the most significant sentences available for those individuals who harm our citizens.”

Mr. Peisinger praised the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as all other first responders for their efforts in rendering aid at the scene and for the extensive investigation that resulted in the conviction of Mr. Garrett. Additionally, he commended Assistant State’s Attorneys Jason Allen and Charles Fitzpatrick for their exceptional advocacy.

Essex Man Convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter

RE: Conviction of Joshua Zimmerman

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the conviction of Joshua Zimmerman, 32, from Essex, Maryland for vehicular manslaughter.

On December 27, 2020 at 7:40 a.m, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources Officer was heading to work when he observed a Ford pickup truck that was laying on its side near 3440 Conowingo Road in Street, Maryland. The officer stopped to see if anyone needed assistance and observed Joshua Zimmerman exiting the vehicle from the driver’s side. The officer also found the victim, Regina Welch, unresponsive on the side of the road after she had been ejected from the passenger seat of the vehicle. The Maryland State Police arrived on scene and transported Ms. Welch to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma by helicopter. Despite extensive lifesaving efforts, on December 29, 2020, Ms. Welch succumbed to her injuries.

When State Police troopers spoke with Mr. Zimmerman at the scene, his speech was slurred, he could barely walk without assistance or falling and displayed constricted pupils, which is an indication of being under the influence of some type of drug. Mr. Zimmerman was then transported to Upper Chesapeake to have his blood drawn to test for the possible presence of any controlled substance in his system. On May 27, 2021, the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division completed their analysis of Mr. Zimmerman’s blood which was found to contain alprazolam, methadone, fentanyl, cocaine, and benzoylecgonine (a cocaine metabolite).

A subsequently conducted Maryland State Police accident reconstruction concluded that Mr. Zimmerman was driving a 2008 Ford F-150 truck northbound on Route 1 when it drifted off the right side of roadway and into a grassy ditch and brush line and then struck a standing tree with its right front end. The Ford continued through the ditch and overturned onto its left side near 3440 Conowingo Road. Ms. Welch was ejected from truck as it overturned.

On June 3, 2022, Joshua Zimmerman pled guilty to the top count of vehicular manslaughter. Following victim impact statements made by the victim’s parents, stepfather and sister, the Honorable Diane Adkins-Tobin sentenced him to 7 years to be served in the Division of Corrections. The maximum penalty of vehicular manslaughter is 10 years. Upon release, Mr. Zimmerman will be subject to five years of supervised probation and an additional 3 years of incarceration should he be found in violation of that probation.

Mr. Peisinger thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Angela Diehl who prosecuted this matter and commended the Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland State Police, the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division as well as all other first responders for their collective teamwork and dedication which resulted in the arrest and conviction of Joshua Zimmerman.

Baltimore County Man Convicted of Multiple Counts of Animal Cruelty and Cockfighting Related Charges

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: May 27, 2022
RE: Conviction of Jose Lopez-Villalba
(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the conviction of Jose Lopez-Villalba, 42, for multiple counts of animal cruelty and possessing birds for cockfighting.

On May 10, 2021, Harford County Animal Control received a complaint about people engaging in cockfighting at 4366 Madonna Road in Street, Maryland. Upon arrival at that address, Officers inspected the 36-acre property and found approximately 100 chickens, most of which were roosters. Most of the roosters had been “dubbed,” which means their comb, wattles, and earlobes had been removed. This procedure is common with roosters involved in cockfighting because it prevents injury to these body parts while the roosters are fighting. Officers also found a fighting ring with a “sparring puppet” or fake stuffed rooster, which is used to train the roosters to fight each other.

Throughout the summer of 2021, Harford County Sheriff’s Office investigators conducted surveillance of the property and made additional visits to check on the wellbeing of the birds. On June 3, they found one rooster with a lacerated wing and damaged plumage on his chest. These injuries are consistent with cockfighting. Investigators also found medical supplies that could be used to treat injured birds.

During the surveillance, Jose Luis Lopez-Villalba was identified as one person who likely owned the roosters and used them for fighting. Multiple videos posted by Jose Lopez-Villalba on social media were discovered that showed him carrying roosters into the pit and forcing them to fight. The location in the videos was identified as the same cockfighting pit that investigators previously observed.

On October 3, 2021, investigators obtained a search and seizure warrant for 4366 Madonna Road, assisted by veterinarians and other staff from the Humane Society. Investigators discovered 209 fowl on the property of which 135 were roosters. Many of the roosters had old injuries or scars that were consistent with cockfighting. Also found during the search were “keep cages” in a barn which are solitary confinement devices for roosters that are used to make them more aggressive before a fight. 55 of the roosters had been “dubbed” and accompanying veterinarians determined that 39 of the chickens were underweight. Mr. Lopez-Villalba was on the property near the cockfighting area when the search warrant was executed. He was interviewed and admitted to owning the sparring puppet and dubbing the roosters. He denied that the roosters were used for fighting, but he admitted having them “touch noses” and making them charge at each other.

On May 24, 2022, Jose Lopez-Villalba pled guilty to 20 counts of animal cruelty and 20 counts of possessing a bird for cockfighting. The Honorable Maurice Baldwin sentenced him to 6 years to be served in the Division of Corrections. Upon release, Mr. Lopez-Villalba will be subject to three years of supervised probation and an additional 114 years of incarceration should he be found in violation of that probation.

“Animal cruelty of any kind is disturbing and atrocious behavior, but forcing innocent animals to fight for sport is particularly cruel and heartless,” said Harford County State’s Attorney Albert J. Peisinger, Jr. “I am extremely
proud of the work that my office and our partners in law enforcement and the Humane Society did to hold this man accountable for these heinous crimes. This sentence should serve as a warning that this type of reprehensible behavior will not be tolerated at any level in this County.”

Mr. Peisinger thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Cristin Treaster who prosecuted this matter and commended the Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the Animal Control Unit personnel, the Department of Homeland Security as well as all of the volunteer veterinarians and staff from the Humane Society of the United States for their collective teamwork and dedication which resulted in the arrest and conviction of Jose Lopez-Villalba.

South Carolina Man Sentenced to 30 Years For First Degree Assault and Robbery

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: May 16, 2022
RE: Sentencing of Brian Summerson

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the sentencing of Brian Summerson, from Dillon, South Carolina for assault in the first degree and robbery.

On January 8, 2021, Harford County Sheriff’s Detectives responded to Mercy Hospital for the report of an assault that had occurred earlier in Belcamp. Detectives interviewed the victim who indicated that she met a man online and agreed to meet him in Harford County. During the course of their interaction, the suspect strangled the victim and forced her to send him money through Cash App. The victim later provided phone numbers to Detectives and positively identified Brian Summerson through a photo array as her attacker. Detectives further discovered that Mr. Summerson was arrested in Florida after this incident for a similar crime and a Federal warrant had been issued for an alleged kidnapping in Tennessee.

Mr. Summerson was extradited to Harford County where he stood trial. Following a four-day bench trial in front of the Honorable Kevin J. Mahoney, Mr. Summerson was convicted of assault in the first degree and robbery.

On May 13, 2022, Judge Mahoney sentenced Mr. Summerson to an aggregate 30 years of incarceration to be served at the Department of Corrections. Upon completion of those sentences, the defendant was additionally placed on five years of supervised probation.

“I am very pleased with this outcome,” said Harford County State’s Attorney Albert J. Peisinger, Jr. “This violent individual deserved nothing less than the significant jail sentence he received for this horrible crime.” Mr. Peisinger further stated: “I certainly hope that the victim can find closure. As this prosecution and sentence shows, we will not waver in our commitment to eradicating brutal and senseless instances of violence such as this to ensure the safety of our communities.”

Mr. Peisinger thanked the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for their response and investigation and Assistant State’s Attorneys Cyndi Adkins and Toi Mason for their advocacy that resulted in the conviction of Mr. Summerson.

Whiteford Man Convicted of Firearm Charges in Relation to Drug Trafficking

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: May 13, 2022
RE: Conviction of Nicholas Hunt

(Bel Air, Maryland) – Albert J. Peisinger, Jr., State’s Attorney for Harford County, has announced the conviction of Nicholas Hunt, 26, of Whiteford, Maryland, for possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime and possession of a regulated firearm after having been convicted a disqualifying crime.

On August 29, 2018, the Warrant Apprehension Unit of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services were investigating the apprehension of a fugitive at 1313 Gold Medal Way in Edgewood Maryland. Upon arrival at that address, investigators encountered Nicholas Hunt, who led investigators into his apartment where the fugitive was staying. Upon entry, investigators discovered marijuana in plain view along with a disassembled firearm. At this point, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office was notified, and a search and seizure warrant was obtained.

Following the execution of the search and seizure warrant on Nicholas Hunt’s apartment, the Harford County Narcotics Task Force recovered approximately three ounces of cocaine and one and a quarter pounds of marijuana along with paraphernalia indicating that the illegal drugs were being weighed and packed for street level distribution. Also recovered was a 1911 Browning semi-automatic handgun near the drugs.

Subsequent to a grand jury indictment on the charges in 2018, the defendant fled the State and was eventually apprehended in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 3, 2021. On May 12, 2022, Nicholas Hunt pled guilty to possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime and possession of a regulated firearm after having been convicted a disqualifying crime. The Honorable Kevin J. Mahoney sentenced Mr. Hunt to an aggregate sentence of 35 years of incarceration, suspend all but 10 years to be served without the possibility of parole to the Department of Corrections. Upon completion of those sentences, the defendant was additionally placed on five years of supervised probation.

Mr. Peisinger thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Cristin Treaster who prosecuted this matter and commended the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division for their teamwork and dedication which resulted in the arrest and conviction of Nicholas Hunt.

32nd Memorial Service for Crime Victims and their Families

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: April 7, 2022
RE: 32nd Memorial Service for Crime Victims and their Families

This year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be observed April 24–30, 2022. A Crime Victim Memorial Service will be hosted by the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office to honor the lives of those lost to violent crimes in our region, which include Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Cecil, Harford and Howard Counties. The service will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, April 24, 2022 at Harford Community College Chesapeake Center followed by light refreshments. This event will be live streamed on our Facebook page. Please check our page for updates.