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Ben Conarck

The Baltimore Banner

June 6, 2024

Resisting calls to resign from the union representing rank-and-file correctional officers and parole agents, the head of the state corrections department announced a wave of interim appointments in the agency’s parole and probation division.

The leadership shake-up follows the killing of parole agent Davis Martinez and subsequent calls from the union representing him demanding the resignation of Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Carolyn Scruggs, accusing her of ignoring health and safety concerns raised by union officials.

U.S. marshals last weekend arrested the suspect in the killing of Martinez, 54-year-old Emanuel Edward Sewell, a registered sex offender who lived in Chevy Chase. Martinez, a six-year veteran of the department, was found dead inside Sewell’s apartment after he did not report to work following a scheduled appointment with Sewell.

A source familiar with the circumstances of Martinez’s death told The Baltimore Banner that Sewell was a “known threat” and threatened a different parole agent, causing Martinez to be assigned to his case in their place. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services did not immediately respond to questions about whether the agency was aware of that threat.

The corrections department named a trio of interim appointments to lead the division in an acting capacity: Bobbie Jo Fockler serving as the director and Shina Castain-Thompson and Christopher T. King serving as deputies.

The agency declined to confirm two resignations of former parole and probation division leaders. It also declined to answer questions about whether, prior to Martinez’s death, corrections department leaders met with union officials to discuss potential policy changes that would have broadened the definition of what is considered a threat to a parole agent, but did not pursue them.

Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3, which represents parole and probation agents, called the personnel moves a “step in the right direction,” but added, “there’s a lot of questions that still need to be answered.”

“My understanding is there’s an ongoing investigation, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that comes to light,” Moran said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the corrections department said “the safety and well-being of department staff are paramount concerns for” Scruggs and that “addressing staffing levels and reviewing safety protocols are critical to fulfilling the department’s mission both to ensure public safety and promote restorative justice.”

The department said it will conduct a search to identify the best candidates to fill the leadership roles on a permanent basis.

Baltimore Banner investigative reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this report.


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