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Rockville man confesses to murder

Scott-Tomaszewski-166x300ROCKVILLE – Police say a Rockville man confessed he brutally murdered his neighbors and then left town for a vacation cruise to Alaska with his parents.

 

Police arrested Scott Tomaszewski, 31, late Saturday for the murder of Richard “Dick” Vilardo, 65, and Julianne “Jody” Vilardo, 67. Police in Alaska detained him when the cruise ship pulled into Juneau on a scheduled stop, said Capt. Paul Starks, spokesperson for the Montgomery County police.

Tomaszewski waived his extradition Tuesday, which means he will not fight Montgomery County’s request to bring him to the county to stand trial, said Montgomery County state’s attorney’s spokesperson Ramon Korionoff.

“The defendant waived his extradition (Tuesday), so the judge decided to hold him for us on a no-bonds status,” Korionoff said. “He is going to be picked up by Montgomery County police for arraignment here. There is no set date, but (police) are working on the logistics for that transfer.”

Korionoff said he believes Tomaszewski will be transferred between the middle and end of next week.

According to Starks, investigators found evidence including blood-soaked cash believed to be from the Vilardo home. Authorities executed a search warrant on Tomaszewski’s Rockville residence and his cruise ship cabin on Saturday.

Tomaszewski confessed to both killings while being questioned by authorities, Starks said.

According to Starks, detectives charged Tomaszewski with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of armed robbery and one count of first-degree burglary.

The arrest comes only a day after the heartbreaking funeral for the Vilardos, who left behind two children and two grandchildren.

Relatives thanked law enforcement Sunday for bringing them closure so they can “take the first step on the long road to healing.”

“For the past week, we have known the where, the when and the how; now we know who,” the Vilardo family said in a statement.

Neighbors and friends of the Vilardos also reached out to the police Sunday to express their thanks.

“They were very appreciative and expressed their thanks to Chief (Tom) Manger and Capt. Darren Franke and spoke very highly of the Vilardos, what good people they were and what a tragedy this was,” said Montgomery County police spokesperson Officer Nicole Gamard.

Investigators said they believe Tomaszewski entered the Vilardo home early on Mother’s Day through an unlatched window, brutally stabbed both spouses and left the husband dead in the backyard and the wife dead in the home.

After the couple did not show up for planned Mother’s Day activities with their family, their daughter Katherine went to their house, where she found her parents dead, and alerted authorities, Starks said.

Police also said Tomaszewski had committed more crimes in the neighborhood.

On Easter, a burglary occurred on the same street where the Vilardos lived, and as part of the investigation, Starks said, law enforcement learned Tomaszewski had pawned items on April 20 that had been taken from the burglarized house.

According to police, the investigation on Tomaszewski remains open.

“Our investigation is ongoing. Whether that includes other crimes or not, that’s all part of the investigation,” Gamard said.

According to Starks, once the extradition process is complete, Tomaszewski will be transported to Montgomery County for arraignment.

 

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MCPS appoints Bowers

LarryBowers-webThe Montgomery County Board of Education Wednesday selected acting Superintendent Larry Bowers as the interim superintendent for another year, scrambling after its top choice withdrew his name from consideration.

Bowers took over when Joshua Starr, who had held the position since 2011, stepped down Feb. 16 prior to his contract’s end after it appeared a majority of the board would not renew his post. Bowers had planned to retire on July 1 after 37 years with Montgomery County Public Schools but agreed to step in for another year. His appointment will be official after approval from State Superintendent Lillian Lowery.

“I appreciate everybody’s support, and I especially appreciate the board’s support. Again it wasn’t exactly what I was planning, but as everyone knows I’ve dedicated 37 years of my life to the school system. I’ve been extremely committed to the work that we’ve been doing to make this not only the best school system in the country but also a place where every parent is confident that wherever they’re sending their child to school in Montgomery County that they’re going to get a good education, that they’re going to be prepared for their future,” Bowers said after a standing ovation in response to the board’s unanimous vote. “I was certainly willing to step in, knowing that I want to keep us not only on the right track but working closely with the board ... laying out the plan for next year.”

The board decided to appoint an interim superintendent after its top choice, Andrew Houlihan, chief academic officer for Houston Independent School District, withdrew from consideration over the weekend. The board announced him as the “preferred candidate” out of 25 applicants and seven finalists on Friday, when he met with county leadership and a community panel as board members prepared to go to Houston to interview his colleagues.

By state law, the board has to appoint a superintendent by July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, or appoint an interim for a year.

“We spent 30 hours interviewing candidates – more than 30 hours – and we’ve not decided to bring anyone forward. We’re just going to take a pause,” said Board of Education President Pat O’Neill. “We’re late in the superintendent search season right now, and so we’ll take a pause and restart in the winter.”

Some members of the Montgomery County Council also said many of the best candidates had already made a decision for the next year. However, MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig could not say who the finalists were or from which school districts they came since the board promised all candidates confidentiality. Published reports in April said Superintendent of Fulton County Schools Robert Avossa had been a finalist for the MCPS job before he took the superintendent position in Palm Beach County.

O’Neill said she was not concerned whether the turn of events reflected MCPS’ reputation. In addition to the 25 applications, the school system had reached out to other superintendents who ultimately could not apply because of other factors.

“It varies from year to year in who (applies) because of the family circumstances, professional circumstances, (whether they are) interested in making a move, and we want to (choose) the best superintendent, so, no, I’m not concerned,” she said.
County Council President George Leventhal (D-At large) said the same. Although Leventhal did not know why Houlihan decided he did not want the job, he said it has to be a good fit from all sides and has helped those who held the position in the past.

“Certainly, Paul Vance and Jerry Weast, to cite two obvious recent examples, left the job with their reputations enhanced and very well thought of. So I have every confidence that the leadership team that’s in place right now is handling issues and making decisions and dealing with issues day to day,” Leventhal said. “The opportunity to work in a system like this one is still very desirable. Candidates who have interviewed with the board, I was told by the board members, repeatedly stressed what a desirable assignment this is.”

While Council member Craig Rice said he could see how the chain of events might reflect poorly on MCPS, he did not think it should.

“It could also lead people to say, ‘Wow, Montgomery County is very choosy in terms of who’ll they’ll pick as their superintendent.’ But that’s a good thing. ... From that perspective, I’m okay with us pressing the reset button and starting over, but at the same time we need to make sure we have a leader. We can’t just sit idly by,” Rice said.

He said the interim superintendent has to be a strong leader particularly going into the next budget season, when the council will want to know the school system’s direction in order to cut and allocate money properly.

But Rice did not feel it would have made sense for the board to go back to those they had already decided were not right for the position once Houlihan dropped out. However, he did say he wanted to take a look at the search firm the board uses, Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. The board hired HYA, the firm that found the past two superintendents, for $35,000 in February to look for Starr’s replacement.

 

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Exelon accepts PSC conditions to merge with Pepco

pepcoChicago-based Exelon Corp. agreed on May 18 to the Maryland Public Service Commission’s conditions to approve its merger with local utility Pepco Holdings Inc.

 

The Maryland Public Service Commission voted 3-2 on May 15 to approve the $6.8 billion merger, which will make Exelon the power provider for about 85 percent of Maryland customers. Exelon would gain control of Pepco Holding’s three utilities: Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power and Pepco.

“After a thorough review of the order, we have concluded that it is constructive, but the conditions it imposes – including those to which the companies already committed in our settlement – will also be challenging. It poses some stringent conditions that will be difficult to fulfill, but all of us at Exelon accept the challenge and commit to proving ourselves in an expanded role in Maryland,” said Chris Cane, CEO of Exelon.

The commission approved the merger with a number of conditions, some of which came from settlement agreements with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties’ governments. The PSC adjusted some of those conditions, which now include: reliability standards to be met by 2020 to avoid financial penalties, $66 million for residential rate credits, $43.2 million for energy efficiency programs and $14.4 for sustainability investments for the two counties. Exelon must also provide for development of 20 megawatts in renewable energy generation throughout the service areas by the end of 2018. The reliability goal for Pepco in 2020 is for the average customer to have no more than 0.9 service interruptions per year and an average outage duration of 91 minutes, according to the merger conditions.

The conditions also include “ring-fencing” measures to protect customers from Exelon’s business activities as a “generation-owning parent entity.” Exelon owns nuclear power plants, which many worried would hurt ratepayers in the long term as nuclear energy becomes more expensive and obsolete.

“The evidence does demonstrate that one of Exelon’s motives for the merger is to diversify its financial reliance on volatile power market revenues from its generation business with the steady income stream from increased ownership of regulated distribution companies. What the record does not demonstrate, however, is any evidence supporting the assertion that Exelon will seek to loot the earnings from Delmarva and Pepco to the financial detriment of those utilities,” PSC commissioners wrote in the order.

Maryland PSC Commissioners Harold Williams and Anne Hoskins dissented from the order, citing concerns about the harm they believe the merger will do to consumers.

“The proposed merger…will undermine competition; it will increase rates, challenging affordability for many consumers; and it will eviscerate economic protections due to a weakened and compromised corporate governance structure,” they wrote.

The other three commissioners wrote they believed the merger did not impose any more risk to customers than already exists under Pepco.

Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who has been outspoken on the merger as a member of the Coalition for Utility Reform, said he was disappointed in the merger despite the conditions. Pepco and Exelon did not settle with the coalition prior to the PSC decision.

While Berliner said he supports increased reliability commitments, contributions to sustainability, availability of Pepco rights-of-way for trails in the community and the PSC’s decision to look into reform of utility operations, he said the changes could have occurred without the merger.

“Many of us, including Attorney General Frosh, the Maryland Energy Administration, the Office of People’s Counsel, our County Council, environmental organizations, and the PSC’s own staff, concluded that this merger is not in the public interest,” Berliner said. “How the Commission could conclude differently is hard to fathom. One can only conclude that this is a classic case of ‘regulatory capture.’ Exelon has a proven track record of favoring its own nuclear generation holdings over renewable technologies like solar and wind. This merger poses an unacceptable threat to both ratepayers and our environment.”

Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, also said the PSC made the wrong decision.

“Commissioner Kelly Speakes-Backman  – an O’Malley appointee to the commission and a staunch advocate for environmental protection through clean energy – defied expectations and cast the swing vote in the 3-2 decision,” he said.

Tidwell said now it is up to D.C. regulators to make the” right” decision and reject the merger in their jurisdiction.

“Unless D.C. PSC regulators make the right choice where Maryland went wrong, these negatives impacts are almost certain to occur with today’s flawed approval. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh spoke for many opponents before this decision in saying ‘No amount of money or structural changes can make this deal into one that’s in Maryland’s best interest.’ Yet the PSC today tragically ruled otherwise,” he said.

The merger is still pending before the Delaware and District of Columbia Public Service Commissions. Delaware’s PSC is expected to vote at its meeting on June 2 and had waited in part to see what Maryland commissioners would decide, according to Ombudsman Matt Hartigan. The record for testimony on the merger in D.C. closes May 27, and the commission then has 90 days to decide from that date.

A number of environmental and other organizations have opposed the merger in D.C. already, including the Power DC Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, Nuclear Information & Resource Service and Grid 2.0 Working Group.

Even with the merger, local attorney Ryan Spiegel, another member of the Coalition for Utility Reform, said he was also encouraged by the promise of Utility 2.0, which would look at ways to connect utility companies’ profits to public interest measures like renewable energy, reliability, customer service and innovation.

“The dissenting Commissioners' strong embrace of Utility 2.0 sets the stage for future proceedings, like those in New York and Hawaii, to fundamentally reform the electric grid and lends additional support to the coalition's ongoing efforts to make performance-based ratemaking a reality in the state of Maryland,” he said.

 

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Metro troubles mount

metro logoROCKVILLE – Despite conflicting accounts from passengers and the Metrorail Twitter page, riders on the Red Line experienced what the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority described as a “moderate disruption” in service without any major passenger delays Tuesday morning.

According to the Metrorail Info account on Twitter, “a reported track fire outside” of the Bethesda Station caused a “major disruption” that forced Metro to temporarily shut down the station and suspend rail service between Medical Center and Friendship Heights.

Metro first learned of smoke near Friendship Heights Station at approximately 6:30 a.m., said Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye, and the source was determined to be a small track fire in the area of power cables in the tunnel.

Dye said trains were moved out of the area for passenger safety and third rail power was removed to stop the fire.

Service resumed shortly before 7:20 a.m. with single-tracking between Medical Center and Friendship Heights, said Dye.

According to the Metrorail account, only D.C.-bound trains were allowed to stop at the Bethesda Station while outbound passengers were asked to ride the train an extra stop to Medical Center and then transfer back onto an inbound train to get to their destinations.

Red Line passenger Ray Jose said that the delays caused him to miss the start of his meeting and that the lack of communication from Metro left passengers hanging.

“The first train that passed me was too packed to let anyone on, and then I had to wait an additional 20 minutes for another train to come – it’s ridiculous,” said Jose, who was waiting at the Chinatown stop for an outbound train. “There was no transparency at all as to what was causing the delays or if there were going to be any shuttles offered.”

Full service was restored three hours after the incident happened, but riders were told by the Metrorail account to continue to expect residual delays in both directions.

One Metro rider sarcastically addressed the transit agency for the delays on social media.

“A four-hour delay on the #Red Line. You outdid yourself @WMATA,” tweeted @SapienQuis.

Another rider, Scott T. Patrick, tweeted his “thanks” to Metro for the problems the delays caused him during his commute.
“Waiting over an hour for a train that isn’t overflowing with people with a crying baby late for daycare, thanks @wmata,” Patrick said.

Dye said the cause of the incident is “under investigation.”

County Council members have remained critical of Metro, its track safety and its transparency level since the fatal Jan. 12 L’Enfant Plaza incident

“I really think WMATA has a long way to go to improve its transparency and its communication in order to maintain public confidence,” said Council member Tom Hucker (D-5) after a meeting with WMATA officials earlier this year.

At that meeting WMATA officials informed the Council that the third rail insulation was inspected by “track walkers” who walk along the tracks to check if the third rail “appears” to be working.

 

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Judge faces disciplinary charges

 

scales of justiceROCKVILLE - The Commission on Judicial Disabilities members have decided to file charges against Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Audrey Creighton, according to sources familiar with the commission proceedings.

The commission, which investigates complaints about judges exhibiting “sanctionable conduct,” does not comment on any pending cases, according to Executive Secretary Gary Kolb. No documents or charges become public until a judge has responded to the charges or the time has passed for them to respond. Per the Maryland rules, judges have 30 days to respond to charges against them.

Sanctionable conduct is defined as “misconduct while in office, the persistent failure by a judge to perform the duties of the judge's office, or conduct prejudicial to the proper administration of justice,” but does not include individuals’ complaints about a judge’s finding in their cases.

Creighton’s lawyer, William Brennan, also declined to comment and could not confirm or deny the existence of charges.

After the commission decides to file charges and the 30-day response time passes, the commission can also schedule a hearing and must give 60 days’ notice unless one is already agreed upon. If after the hearing the commission finds “clear and convincing evidence” of sanctionable conduct, it can issue a public reprimand against the judge or refer the matter to the Court of Appeals.

Creighton came into the spotlight after she was the victim of false imprisonment in May 2014. In January, Rickley Senning, 25, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, second-degree assault and driving under the influence of alcohol. Senning did not plead guilty to a kidnapping charge. Judge Diane Leasure sentenced Senning to 10 years for each count to be served concurrently with all but three suspended and five years’ probation.

Since Senning pleaded guilty, the case did not go to trial. Prince George’s County state’s attorney spokesperson John Erzen II said at the time Creighton had been prepared to testify against Senning had the case gone to trial.

Currently, Creighton is hearing only civil cases and helping with administrative work rather than hearing other types of cases. Administrative Judge John Debelius III made that decision after the November 2014 elections. Prior to that, Creighton had taken some personal leave right after the false imprisonment and was on chambers work leading up to the election in November.

Creighton was elected in November after O’Malley appointed her to the Circuit Court in April. During her election campaign, Creighton’s opponent, Daniel Connell, filed an open letter in light of the incident involving Senning and her relationship with him. Connell called into question whether Senning used her position as a judge to help Senning by harboring him and improperly referring him to a judge who ignored his outstanding bench warrant and instead released him in 2013 with a $250 fine while he was wanted on drug charges.

The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

 

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Rockville man confesses to murder of elderly couple

 

Scott-Tomaszewski-166x300ROCKVILLE – Police say a Rockville man confessed he brutally murdered his neighbors then conveniently left town for a planned vacation cruise to Alaska with his parents.

Police arrested Scott Tomaszewski, 31, late Saturday for the murder of Richard “Dick” Vilardo, 65 and Julianne “Jody” Vilardo, 67. Police in Alaska detained him when the cruise ship on which he traveled pulled into Juneau on a scheduled stop said Capt. Paul Starks, spokesperson for Montgomery County Police.

According to Starks, investigators found evidence including blood soaked cash believed to be from the Vilardo home. Authorities executed a search warrant on Tomaszewski’s Rockville residence and his cruise ship cabin on Saturday.

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Pepco/Exelon Merger Approved

PowerTransmissionLinesAfter nine months of deliberations, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved 3-2 the $6.8 billion merger between local utilities Pepco and Delmarva Power with Chicago-based Exelon, making Exelon the provider for 85 percent of Maryland customers.

The decision comes against the petitions of multiple environmental groups and county council members, who hoped the PSC would impose stiff renewable energy requirements on Exelon to make sure the transaction was in the public interest.

PSC approved the merger with a number of conditions, some of w

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Rockville theater hosts unique fundraiser

theaterGAITHERSBURG -- Rockville Little Theatre is Montgomery County’s longest continuously running community theater company, having produced plays annually since it was formed by six friends in Rockville in 1947. This month, the company will host a fundraiser in a new format to support future efforts. For one night only, on Saturday, May 30, at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn, RLT will present “Murder at the TonyLou Awards,” an interactive murder-mystery comedy.

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