Man arrested in Maryland syringe attack ordered held as new details emerge

The man accused of stabbing a woman with a syringe at an Anne Arundel County, Maryland, grocery store last week made his first appearance in court Wednesday.

Prosecutors said “absolutely chilling” video shows 51-year-old Thomas Stemen, of Churchton, Maryland, not only assault the woman with the syringe inside a grocery store last week, but that video also shows him trying to do the same thing to two other women as well.

Both of those other two attempts failed, authorities said in charging documents filed in Anne Arundel County District Court.

When police arrested Stemen, who moved to Churchton from Ohio just a few months ago, they said they found a syringe in the drivers’ side door of his car, with a liquid still inside it, according to the charging documents.

Several other syringes were also found inside his home when police went inside to search it.

It’s still not clear what the liquid inside the syringe was. Prosecutors said the victim continues to undergo treatment for the attack — including taking preventive medications — and that she’s “still terrified” after the puncture wound grew to about 4 inches in diameter the next day.

“It could have been anyone of us,” said Colin Kelly with the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, who said Stemen hung around the store waiting to, in his words, “terrorize” his randomly chosen victim.

The woman told police she was returning her shopping cart at the front of the store when the man, later identified as Stemen, bumped into her, and she felt a pain in her buttock. She said at first she thought he had burned her with a cigarette, and he told her, “Ya, it felt like a bee sting, didn’t it?” according to the charging documents.

The woman lives near Stemen but doesn’t know him, authorities said.

Stemen’s lawyer argued for house arrest so that Stemen could continue to work, but a judge twice said his key “concern is public safety,” and ordered Stemen held without bond, saying public safety is “at risk.” He called the case “absolutely bizarre and disturbing.”

Stemen, who appeared by video link from jail, hung his head for a moment when the judge announced his decision.

Stemen has been charged with first- and second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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