Cecil County Sheriff's Office

Cecil County Sheriff’s Office

BAINBRIDGE — Cecil County Sheriff’s Office deputies have charged four more people with trespassing after catching them on the Bainbridge property, as that agency continues to increase patrols there in the wake of two recent arsons at large, abandoned, historic buildings at that site, police reported.

Action taken by Sr. Deputy Ryan Stewart during the incident, which occurred late Wednesday night, brings the number of people charged with trespassing to six since the CCSO stepped up patrols on June 15, three days after the most recent intentionally-set blaze occurred on that property, according to Lt. Michael Holmes, an agency spokesman.

Holmes identified the charged suspects — two women and two men — as Emilie Michele Layte, 26, of Baltimore; Michaela Leanne Hildebrand, 20, of Dundalk; Francesco Anthony Tramontano, 20, also of Baltimore; and Kevin Eduardo Alvarez, 24, a Baltimore resident, too.

All four were charged by way of criminal summonses with trespassing, a misdemeanor offense, Holmes said.

Layte also was issued a criminal citation for possession of marijuana, after investigators found a small amount of that alleged drug inside a cigarette pack linked to her, he added. Such a citation is issued if the suspect allegedly possesses less than 10 grams of marijuana.

As was the case with the first two people who were issued trespassing citations on June 15, the latest four suspects are not Cecil County residents, indicating that they traveled a distance to be on the private grounds, Holmes noted. (The first two suspects charged with trespassing on June 15 had listed addresses of Dundalk and Edgewood. Those suspects, both men, were ages 23 and 24.)

“We are still looking into that,” Holmes said, adding, “But we have heard in the past that people like to come to Bainbridge to explore the historic area and see the old buildings.”

As he did after deputies charged the first two suspects on June 15, Holmes emphasized that, although the four people were charged with trespassing on Wednesday night, investigators do not believe that they are connected in any way to two recent arsons on that property.

Stewart started his investigation after finding an unoccupied blue Dodge Caravan parked on the northbound side of Bainbridge Road near Frenchtown Road, close to a Bainbridge property entrance gate, at about 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Holmes reported. That spot is a common access area for trespassers, he noted.

Because the van was unoccupied and considered to be suspicious, by virtue of its location, the van was towed away after the deputy made arrangements to do so, according to Holmes.

With the assistance of CCSO Sr. Deputy Stephen Hood, Stewart started searching the Bainbridge property, police reported.

“He saw three people with flashlights walking. Then they ran into a wooded area,” Holmes said, adding that, moments later, that threesome and an additional person emerged from the woods.

As part of the on-scene investigation, deputies spoke with the four people — Layte, Hildebrand, Tramontano and Alvarez — and then issued them trespassing citations, according to Holmes, who further reported that Layte also received a citation for possession of marijuana at that time.

The decision to increase patrols at Bainbridge came earlier this month, after CCSO officials met with Sue Smith, who is the police chief of the Port Deposit Police Department, which essentially exists by name only. The Town of Port Deposit once had its own police department but, after it was dismantled many years ago, primarily for budgetary reasons, town officials contract the CCSO for police services.

“She is considered the police chief, but there is no (Port Deposit) police force. She oversees what we (CCSO) do as far as patrolling and other police services in and around that town,” Holmes said. “She coordinates with us, and she also shares information with us, and we share information with her and coordinate with her.”

After deputies charged the first two suspects with trespassing on June 15, Holmes commented, “We’re stepping up patrols there due to the recent arsons. It is private property, and there are numerous ‘no trespassing’ signs posted. People are not allowed to be on that property, so we are looking for people who are trespassing and engaging in other criminal activities there.”

The most recent fire on the Bainbridge property, which is a total of 1,200 acres, triggered the first of several 911 calls at 7:53 p.m. on June 12, according to Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal officials, who explained that rising smoke and flames could be seen by people in nearby Port Deposit.

Port Deposit is adjacent to the former Tome School for Boys campus section of the Bainbridge property, approximately a 150-acre parcel that is on a hill overlooking the town.

Approximately 50 firefighters with numerous volunteer fire companies from Pennsylvania, Harford County and Cecil County battled the blaze for about two hours, before bringing it under control, fire officials said. Water Witch Volunteer Fire Co. of Port Deposit served as the on-scene command unit, fire officials added.

The blaze gutted the three-story building known as Harrison Hall, which was part of the historic Tome School for Boys campus. MOSFM officials, who identified Bainbridge Development Corp. (BDC) as the property owner, did not list estimations of structural and content damage to the building, which had been vacant for several decades.

On May 6, approximately six weeks earlier, the first intentionally-set fire raged there and gutted an abandoned two-story building that, in the property’s heyday, served as a dining hall, fire officials reported, identifying the BDC as the owner. (The number of firefighters at that scene and the time it took to control that May 6 blaze are similar to the figures reported regarding Friday’s fire.)

MOSFM officials did not list structural and content damage estimates for that building, either.

Nevertheless, BDC officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the May 6 fire.

After the torching of the former dining hall on May 6, the BDC met with MOSFM officials and members of the Maryland Historic Trust to develop a plan to protect what remains of the former Tome School buildings.

Anyone with information concerning either of these intentionally-set building fires is asked to call the Northeast Regional Office of the State Fire Marshal at 410-386-3050, as MOSFM detectives continue to investigate both of them.

Historically, starting a few years after the Bainbridge Naval Training Center shut down in the mid-1970s, vacant buildings on that property have been torched periodically.

Before May 6, the most recent rash of arsons occurred on the Bainbridge property about six or seven years ago, Sr. Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver J. Alkire told the Cecil Whig in March 2019, when he reported that an intentionally-set fire had damaged a building there. The abandoned buildings do not have electricity and other utilities.

After the closing of the naval training center, the Bainbridge property had been used in various capacities over the past four decades, including serving as a Job Corps Center site during the 1980s, when it was also the target of a number of arson fires.

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