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Revisiting An Old Montgomery County Crime
By: Aine O'Brocken

 

AMBOY, WASHINGTON, December 11, 2008
Does anyone in Montgomery County recognize this woman?
I hope so. Her name is Elsa Newman. She is in prison at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women at Jessup. She was tried and convicted in Montgomery County. On appeal Maryland’s highest court said in its majority opinion that there was nothing to connect Newman to the crime of which she was convicted. So the verdict was voided and Newman was released.
And then? Then she was rearrested, retried—this time in Frederick County—and again convicted.
So why is some ning-nong posting an article on a Montogomery County website?
Allow me to introduce the ning-nong. My name is Aine O’Brocken. I am a nearing-seventy, little-old-lady-type person and a retired seventh-grade teacher. I live in the state of Washington, about as far away as one can get from Maryland and remain in the continental US. I became interested in Newman’s case when I wrote to Aleph Institute for prison pen pals, and Newman was one of two people I began writing to.
That was over a year ago. I have spent the last slightly-more-than a year researching this mother’s case and muttering, “Oh, my G-d! I can’t believe this.”
Perhaps you would deduce from the preceding that I have come to believe Elsa Newman is innocent. You would be correct.
Sooooo…back to the original question: why is this ning-nong posting this article in this place?
Simple, really: I am hoping to find supporters in the county where Newman was originally tried.
New question: Exactly why would I expect to find support for Elsa Newman in Montgomery County? Because Elsa Newman is innocent of the crime of which she was convicted and for which she is unjustly incarcerated. And this little, old lady from Washington is just daring enough to hope that some of you who dwell in Montgomery County will have the intelligence and the faith to follow my line of research and come to the same conclusion that I have found inescapable, namely that Elsa Newman was convicted of a crime committed by someone else, a crime about which Newman had absolutely no knowledge before authorities informed her of the event.
Take a look at a late night in January when Newman was out of state to attend a wedding, and her two sons were visiting their father, Newman’s then-estranged husband, Arlen Slobodow. Choosing her time carefully, so that Newman would not have any way of knowing what was going on, Margery Landry, a family friend and godmother of the boys, broke into Slobodow’s home. She was looking for evidence of abuse.

The boys, then five and seven or thereabouts, had been disclosing unspeakable sexual abuses at the hands of their father. They had also disclosed other abuses: physical, mental, emotional, and verbal. Their disclosures were documented by, among many others, Dr. Jill Scharff. Although Scharff at one time reported abuse, she has since refused to open her records for the sake of these two boys, one now fifteen years old and in high school; the other a seventh-grader. There were also others to whom the boys disclosed, and there were professionals who observed such signs of abuse as rashes and tearing in the anal area, bruises, bite marks on the boys’ penises—and on and on and on.
Landry, unable to have children of her own, loved Slobodow’s two sons as if they were her own. They called her “Aunt Margie,” and she and her husband, John, were among those to whom the boys had disclosed abuses. She was also among those who had tried to find help for the boys and met rejection at every turn. There are supposed to be organizations and places that will come to the aid of children revealing abuse such as these children revealed. I understand that the state of Maryland takes some pride in providing such aid to children. But in this case, aid never happened.
Apparently Landry fell into despair over the seeming impossibility of finding someone to help the boys. And it was out of this despair that she broke into Slobodow’s house, carrying a gun with two whole bullets in it. Landry’s reasoning for the gun was fear for her own safety, considering both what she was doing and the fact that Slobodow had previously assaulted her on more than one occasion. Her mission? Find evidence of abuse and/or of child pornography created by Slobodow, because the creation of such pornography was another thing the boys had disclosed.
Indulge me, if you will, in a closer look at Margery Landry. She was a highly-valued government employee, with the highest possible security clearance. Her next step upward would have been to an ambassadorial position. And yet…and yet…in one almost inexplicable moment, she blew it, completely lost her cool and threw the rest of her life away.  
Why? What did Margery Landry find in that house, the house of Arlen Slobodow, that cost her everything?
The key word here is “almost.” Landry’s actions were almost inexplicable. But there is an explanation. She was not attempting murder, as Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Winfree was to claim. Had Landry been attempting murder, all she had to do was take her gun, slip quietly into the master bedroom where Slobodow has said he was sleeping, put a bullet in his head and depart.
No. There was something more afoot here.
What was that something more? Slobodow was, admittedly, in bed, nude from the waist down. Beside him, completely nude, was his younger son. In January? When Montgomery County weather would surely demand a blanket or two? This was what Margery Landry encountered when she looked into the master bedroom? How did she know about the nudity?
And that, citizens of Montgomery County, is the answer to what was afoot. The only possible explanation for what Margery Landry did is that she stumbled across a situation of abuse-in-progress. She has testified that she entered the room and tried “to pull them apart.”
When Slobodow realized what was happening, there was a struggle over the gun, during which struggle Slobodow attempted to turn the gun on Landry. The gun went off, and the bullet struck Slobodow in the thigh, leaving two wounds—an entrance wound…an exit wound. Interestingly, although Slobodow’s pajama bottoms were drenched in blood, there were no matching holes in that item of clothing.
Eventually the struggle ceased and Landry fled. She would be arrested the following morning as she left her house.
Slobodow called 9-1-1 and informed the operator that his wife had sent someone to try to kill him. Please note here that even if that had been true, there is no way he could have known it. So he was, in a manner of speaking, flying by the seat of his blood-drenched pants and making up things that would look good for the prosecution.
Further, Slobodow insisted to authorities that they “not allow my wife to have my kids.” Hmmmm. Wonder why that was? Could it be that if Newman had access to the boys, she would have them examined for molestation? Slobodow couldn’t afford that, could he? Of course he didn’t want her to have the kids!
Newman would not learn about this incident until the following morning. Had she been guilty of what she was to be accused of—attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder—it would seem that she might have been just a teensy bit reluctant to return to Maryland. She was not…she was not guilty…and she was not reluctant to return.
Are any of you good people of Montgomery County still with me? Margery Landry acted on her own. There was no murder attempt. There was no conspiracy. Landry, in fact, pled guilty to what she did—including breaking and entering and the use of a firearm in the process of a crime. She refused to plead guilty either to attempted murder or to conspiracy, insisting that she would not plead guilty to a crime she had not committed. So in Landry’s case, those two charges were null prossed.
However, those were precisely the charges brought against Elsa Newman. Those were precisely the charges of which she was convicted.
The criminal trial intervened in divorce and custody proceedings, so this father, of whom his two sons had disclosed such unspeakable abuses, has physical custody by default. No person or agency ever stepped forward to help them. They now live in Tampa, Florida—still in the custody of their father.
Soooo…Elsa Newman is in prison. Her home is a cell at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women at Jessup. And she is innocent of the charges against her.
Is there anyone, anywhere in Montgomery County who can—or will—do anything about this?

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Revisiting An Old Montgomery County Crime
By: Aine O'Brocken
   
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