An unearthly coincidence put Mason Carter behind bars last fall. Last month, a second one set him free.
Carter, 17, of Street, was arrested Oct. 26 after police claimed he broke into a Fawn Grove, Pa. home six days earlier, shot a man, terrorized his wife, and stole their car before fleeing into Harford County.
But the arrest earlier this year of a Baltimore man for an unrelated but similar robbery set off a chain of events which unraveled the case implicating Carter, and secured his release late last month after nearly eight months in prison.
Bradford Steven Holup, 49, of Baltimore is now charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery and burglary in the Fawn Grove case. A Whiteford woman, Cassie Jo Health, 26, has been charged in York County, Pa. with obstruction, false swearing, and false reports for implicating Carter.
Through his defense counsel, York, Pa. attorney Korey Leslie, Carter declined comment for this story, pending the official dropping of charges against him in coming days.
Tim Barker, chief prosecutor for the York County District Attorney’s Office, did not respond to multiple calls for comment on the case. District Attorney Tom Kearney was not in the office during the week of July 9, a representative said.
Facing a total of 16 counts in connection with a February break-in and shooting, Holup wanted to cooperate with Baltimore County authorities. According to Leslie, Holup believed investigators knew that he was responsible for the Fawn Grove shooting, and told them he “had killed a man in southern Pennsylvania,” Leslie said.
Ironically, police at the time had not linked Holup to that earlier crime at all, Leslie said, and “would never have known” he was behind it had Holup not offered that information himself.
Contacted by Baltimore County police, investigators from York County met with Holup and determined that he was, in fact, the perpetrator they thought they had already arrested.
“The Pennsylvania State Police demonstrated that all information, both inculpatory and exculpatory, must be reviewed and investigated in order to seek justice,” Kearney said in a press release. “We are confident that the arrests and prosecutions of Bradford Holup and Cassie Jo Heath, and as importantly the release of Mason Carter, will ensure that justice will be served in this case.”
But how did Mason Carter end up in jail in the first place?
Early Morning Break-In
According to Pennsylvania State Police, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 20, a masked man entered the home of William and Connie Cooper on Park Drive in Fawn Grove. Connie Cooper heard the man enter and alerted her husband, who struggled with the intruder before being shot in the upper right chest.
Police said Connie Cooper locked herself in the home’s office after the shooting, but the man forced his way into the room and demanded her car keys before fleeing in her blue Hyundai Elantra. William Cooper, 66, was taken to a local hospital for surgery, and survived the shooting.
But the man who shot him was Holup, not Carter, authorities said.
After breaking into the Cooper’s home, Leslie said Holup fled across the state line into northern Harford County, planning to rob a local pharmacy. He eventually dumped his handgun and the car, which was found in Pylesville by Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies later that same day, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
Leslie said a group of people were “loitering” in the area where the car was found. One of them—Heath—told Pennsylvania State Police that Carter was responsible for the car and the crime.
“For whatever reason, she thought she was in trouble, and said Mason did it,” Leslie said.
Carter was arrested in Harford County on Oct. 26 “with assistance from the Pennsylvania State Police Fugitive Apprehension Unit and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office,” Pennsylvania State Police said at the time. A spokeswoman for the agency said investigators did not specify where Carter was apprehended, or detail his movements over the six days since the shooting.
The Case Against
Carter was charged as an adult with a bevy of serious offenses, including attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and several handgun crimes. He was held on $500,000 bail at the York County Prison, where he would spend the duration of his time in custody.
Leslie said Connie Cooper identified Carter as her husband’s shooter to police, saying she recognized his eyes, but only after media coverage—including that on The Dagger—publicized Carter’s mug shot.
“Which is a cautionary tale about why [witness] identifications aren’t reliable,” Leslie said. “She only saw his eyes, and they went with it.”
Worse, according to Leslie, Cooper said she had thrown a stapler at the intruder and believed she had hit him in the face. In his mug shot, which The Dagger has elected not to republish, Carter clearly bears a scratch on the bridge of his nose.
Leslie said he first began to doubt Heath’s story when she appeared before authorities with a lawyer in tow.
“The first time I knew something was up was when she brought an attorney,” he said. “She didn’t show up with a Maryland attorney, she showed up with a Pennsylvania attorney.”
Other inconsistencies raised further doubt.
“Her statement didn’t add up, she said Mason called her after the [Fawn Grove robbery],” Leslie said. “The police had his phone records…those records clearly showed there was no communication between the two in the four days leading up to [then.]”
As the months passed, Leslie continued to challenge the evidence against his client, while preparing his defense.
“The scary thing is, we’d have gone to trial with an innocent guy,” he said.
A Hard Lesson
In the early morning hours of Feb. 26, a 65-year-old Towson resident returned to his home in the 500 block of Allegheny Avenue when, police said, he found Holup inside his home.
Police said Holup forced the man to walk downstairs to a basement, before shooting the older man in the neck and fleeing. The homeowner managed to call 911, and was transported to an area hospital for treatment.
Holup was seen in Towson later that morning by officers who followed him to his vehicle and found objects belonging to the victim in Holup’s possession.
Holup, has a two-decade long criminal record of assaults and robberies, many involving handguns. For the shooting and robbery of the Towson man, he faced 16 charges including attempted murder, first-degree assault, and armed robbery.
It remained unclear when exactly Holup admitted to his role in the Fawn Grove robbery, and how long Carter remained in jail after that information was provided to police. Holup did not make statements to investigators about the Fawn Grove shooting at the time of his February arrest, according to Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batten.
A representative for Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said his office could not specify any details about statements Holup may have made while in custody for the Towson shooting. Holup remains in custody at the Western Correction Institution in Cumberland, Md.
“Because this is a pending matter and has not gone to court, we would not be able to make any comment on the case,” the spokeswoman said.
According to the York County District Attorney’s release, the Pennsylvania State Police interviewed Holup on June 18, and secured an arrest warrant for him on June 25.
The district attorney’s office thanked the Baltimore County Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit, and the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office for sharing information in the investigation.
“The ongoing investigation into this matter, specifically the statement made by Mr. Holup, and the case specific detail provided by him, demonstrate that the statements made by Ms. Heath implicating Mr. Carter were false,” Kearney wrote.
Heath had been briefly incarcerated at the Cecil County Detention Center for violation of probation on an earlier charge, but was released July 2.
At the time Holup admitted to the shooting, Leslie said he had filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the weak evidence against Carter. With the veteran criminal’s confession, Leslie sought Carter’s release, which was granted on June 22, nearly eight months after he was first incarcerated.
Carter will now celebrate his 18th birthday in early August as a free man—though one who Leslie said learned a harsh lesson in trust.
“I’ve talked to him a few times, he’s relieved, obviously,” Leslie said. “He’s a young guy, he’s got his whole life ahead of him. It’s the hardest lesson in the world about the company you keep, maybe it saves his life someday.”
A press release from the York County District Attorney’s Office regarding the withdrawn charges is published below:
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA COUNTY OF YORK
On Monday, June 25, 2012, the Pennsylvania State Police obtained an arrest warrant for Bradford Steven Holup of Baltimore, MD, on charges of Criminal Attempt to Commit Homicide, Aggravated Assault, Robbery and Burglary. These charges arose from the October 20, 2011, home invasion armed robbery and shooting at the residence of William and Connie Cooper in Fawn Grove Boro.
The Pennsylvania State Police made this arrest following an interview of Mr. Holup on June 18, 2012. During this interview, Mr. Holup acknowledged that he was the individual who broke into the Cooper’s residence in order to steal their car, and shot Mr. Cooper in the chest during the course of the armed robbery. Mr. Holup is incarcerated in Maryland on an unrelated criminal attempt to commit homicide charges.
This office was prosecuting Mason Carter for these offenses. Cassie Jo Heath of Whiteford, MD, provided information to the State Police that implicated Mr. Carter as the individual who committed the home invasion robbery at the Cooper residence. The ongoing investigation into this matter, specifically the statement made by Mr. Holup, and the case specific detail provided by him, demonstrate that the statements made by Ms. Heath implicating Mr. Carter were false. Accordingly, the Pennsylvania State Police charged Ms. Heath with Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function, False Swearing, and False Reports.
We greatly appreciate the diligent work of the affiant, Trooper Michael Mitchell, and the Pennsylvania State Police. The Troopers followed up on all information provided to them, leading to these arrests and the release of Mason Carter from prison. The Pennsylvania State Police demonstrated that all information, both inculpatory and exculpatory, must be reviewed and investigated in order to seek justice. We greatly appreciate the dedication to justice shown by the Pennsylvania State Police.
We also thank the cooperation shown by the Violent Crimes Unit of the Baltimore County Police Department and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore County. They freely shared information and assisted with this ongoing investigation. These arrests occurred due to their cooperation.
We are confident that the arrests and prosecutions of Bradford Holup and Cassie Jo Heath, and as importantly the release of Mason Carter, will ensure that justice will be served in this case. Please direct any additional questions to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tim Barker (717-683-3847) of this office.