Killer running from cops became stuck in the mud near potato chip factory
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
News and Commentary
NORTH EAST, MD. (Oct. 21, 2014) — A murder suspect is in custody after a chase which crossed state lines and ended near a potato chip factory.
In his police mug shot photo, Smith was smiling after his capture. Why? Likely because he knows what a bunch of fools run the courts and criminal justice system in Maryland and even though he allegedly shot his burglar gal pal in the face and killed her, he will most probably not do any serious time in prison.
Cecil County Sheriff’s deputies report that on Sunday October 19, 2014, deputies from the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office and Town of North East Police Officers responded to an apartment in the unit block of Cedar Alley North East in reference to a shooting.
Upon arrival, Deputies found a female, identified as Lacey Marie Engelberth (white female, 21 years of age,) deceased in a bedroom inside the residence. Investigators determined that Engelberth resided at the residence. Deputies observed that the female appeared to have suffered a gunshot wound to her head/facial area.
Deputies made contact with multiple witnesses and learned that Robert (Robbie) Thomas Smith, 22, of Cedar Alley, North East, Maryland, was observed running out of the residence when the gunshot occurred.
Engelberth and Smith were identified as girlfriend/boyfriend of each other residing at the same location. Police say that Smith was observed leaving the scene in a blue Dodge Durango.
Deputies learned that a female was approached a very short time later at a High’s convenience store at the intersection of Route 272 and Joseph Biggs Highway North East. The female stated that she was sitting in her vehicle while her husband was inside the store when a subject matching the description of Smith opened her vehicle door, displayed a handgun, and advised that he was taking the vehicle. When the male subject went to remove the gas pump from the vehicle, the female grabbed the keys and fled toward the store. The male then reentered the blue Dodge Durango and fled the area.
A Town of Rising Sun, Maryland Police Officer observed the suspect vehicle traveling northbound on Route 272 and attempted to perform a traffic stop.
According to police, the Rising Sun Officer was joined by members of the Maryland State Police and later by Sheriff’s Office Deputies. The vehicle continued to flee into the State of Pennsylvania for approximately two to three miles.
Smith then drove into a field where the vehicle became stuck. The male then fled into a wooded area near the Herr’s factory in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.
Smith was observed by Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Maryland State Police Troopers and was taken into custody. Troopers from the Pennsylvania State Police also assisted.
Police report a positive identification on Smith and he was charged in Maryland with Murder 1st degree, Murder 2nd degree, Assault 1st degree, Assault 2nd degree, and Reckless Endangerment. Smith is being held in Pennsylvania awaiting extradition to Maryland.
Smith had an address of 140 Surrey Lane in Rising Sun on March 6, 2014 when he was ticketed by Maryland State Trooper J. Coudon for failing to stop at a stop sign. On May 16th he pleaded guilty.
It is another Maryland memory that Smith was even available for a State Trooper to find him on a highway, free as a bird. Why? He should have been in prison. But this is Maryland, where Judges can reconsider a sentence on a whim, a nod, a blink and a wink. No reason is needed, victims are seldom consulted and the public be damned. But the public gets to pick up the tab for the prosecutors, judges and public defenders.
On July 27, 2012 the Cecil County States Attorney, Edward D. Rollins III, agreed to a very lenient deal for Smith when the man faced multiple charges of assault. Smith was also facing a charge of violating his probation on a prior criminal conviction. All but one of the charges were dropped in return for the prosecutor not having proven a case at trial. The deal cooked up with the Public Defender (paid for by taxpayers) was that Smith would plead guilty to one count of assault and be sentenced to one year and one day jail, consecutive to another case, with work release allowed. The other case was that of burglary and theft charges from 2011. In that case he was sentenced to 18 months in jail. The Judges sentencing defendants to 18 months or less results in the defendants avoiding the state prison system and serving their time the relative comfort of the local jail. The other thirteen counts of theft and burglary were all dropped by Cecil County States Attorney Rollins.
The burglary charges came about when State Police detectives were tracking down culprits involved with the burglary of a home on Water Wheel Drive in Port Deposit, Md., when the troopers spotted Smith and Zachary Michael Lesert, then 19, of Port Deposit, waltzing into an Elkton Pawn shop with a bag full of loot. The items included six GPS devices which police said had been stolen from a number of vehicles. Police said the Engelberth had also pawned a video camera which they believed had been stolen as well.
That particular burglary was especially dangerous as the druggie burglars had stormed into an occupied home through glass doors in the early morning hours, and ripped off an assortment of expensive electronics, cash and a watch.
Police reported that they had obtained a search warrant for Smith’s cell phone which showed he had texted Engelberth during the burglary.
Cecil County’s chief homicide prosecutor, Kerwin Anthony Miller, was also cited on court records as being involved in the plea deal for Smith. Ultimately the elected States Attorney, Rollins, bears responsibility for all plea deals made in his office.
Deputy District Public Defender John K. Northrop was listed as attorney for Smith in the plea deal, along with H. Norman Wilson Jr.
Court records show that a commitment record was issued on Nov. 15, 2013 and the previous day that the defendant (Smith) filed to reopen and modify the sentence. The defendant also sought to be evaluated for drug and alcohol, the results of which are not shared with the public.
An earlier criminal charge of drug distribution for incidents which allegedly took place on Nov. 21, 2010 resulted in the Cecil County States Attorney dropping the charges on Sept. 9, 2011. Smith had been arrested by Rising Sun Police Officer First Class Dan Stickney. Following filings by the Public Defender for the prosecution to provide access to the state chemist to validate the alleged drugs, a motion for a speedy trial and for discovery of evidence, and the Cecil prosecutors folded and dropped the charges.
On Nov. 15, 2011, Smith and Engelberth and a third co-defendant were charged by Maryland State Trooper Chad E. Warner with burglary, rogue and vagabond and theft by warrant in District Court for incidents dating from Oct. 31, 2011 to Nov. 1, 2011. The case was forwarded to Circuit Court for a jury trial and Smith was represented by another Public Defender, E. B. Fockler IV. (See above)
The most recent criminal charges against Smith prior to the murder charges, came on Sept. 9, 2014 when he was charged in Cecil County District Court with five criminal charges including theft, credit card theft, theft by counterfeit, identity theft and use of another’s credit card. The charges were placed by Detective William Sewell. A trial date is set for Dec. 8, 2014.
On Sept. 30, 2014, Smith, continuing his crime spree which culminated in the murder charges for shooting his girlfriend in the face, was charged with theft by Maryland State Trooper Woollens. A court date is set for Nov. 18, 2014.
As for Engelberth, she was charged along with Smith with ten counts of conspiracy and burglary in crimes committed on Nov. 8, 2011, which resulted in her pleading guilty on Feb. 21, 2014 and in a plea deal with Cecil County States Attorney Smith, she was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay $1,000 to Brian Salamone. Too bad for Engelberth that the plea deal didn’t require more jail time as she might still be alive.
She was committed to jail for six months beginning on Feb. 21, 2014 and was given eighty days credit for time served. By May 18, 2014, Engelberth had not paid her court costs, fines or judgment owed to her victim and the matter was sent to “Central Collection Unit”.
Lesert, the other member of the Smith & Engelberth Burglary Gang also entered into a plea deal with States Attorney Rollins. On July 10, 2012 he was sentenced to 18 months in the Department of Corrections with the sentence to run concurrent; to receive 27 days credit for time served; be given work release and the taxpayers were sentenced to providing this convict alcohol and drug evaluation, treatment and therapy with testing, of course, to show that the predictable continuation of substance abuse would prevail. The possibility of restitution was “reserved” by the court and probation with supervision was ordered for 4 years by the unnamed Judge in the case. On July 18, 2012, the Public Defender promptly filed to modify the sentence or reduce it.
The sympathetic and somewhat surreal comments from those who are perhaps devoid of any ability to use reason or common sense on the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page included one from a poster who said that “Robbie really loved her” referring to how the murder has “destroyed” two families. Others comments roundly criticized such postings, pointing out that “domestic violence is real”.
The poster could have added “deadly”.
As for criminal gangs turning on each other with violence, the alleged actions of the armed ex-con burglar Robert Thomas Smith prove that sooner or later he would kill someone and the citizens of Cecil County are just lucky that one of them didn’t become his victim as he pursued his life of crime and mayhem and instead killed a member of his burglary gang.
Many would call this crime a “twofer”.
Prosecutors contend that by dropping charges in a plea deal with a criminal who pleads guilty, results in the taxpayers being spared the cost of a long trial and possible not guilty verdict by a jury unimpressed with the state’s case.