In June 2021, 21-year-old Antonio Bardney pleaded guilty to his role in a robbery and killing in Columbia and agreed to cooperate against co-defendants. As part of his agreement, he was set free pending the resolution of the other cases.

After nine months mostly in compliance, he vanished.

Now, Baltimore Police say that while on the run, Bardney committed a robbery in Southeast Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood that resulted in the death of a beloved resident and volunteer in August 2022.

Victor Malabayabas, 60, was killed after being pulled to the ground during a robbery in the 600 block of South Kenwood Avenue. Video showed him being confronted as he carried bags into his home; he was then accosted and fell and hit his head on the pavement. He died at a hospital.

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Victor Malabayabas is shown at a reunion of Philippine Merchant Marine Academy alumni at National Harbor, Maryland. He died Aug. 22, 2022 following an attack outside his Canton home. (Courtesy of PMMA Alumni Association - North America)

Police have charged Bardney after linking him to the crime through a match in a DNA database in addition to the footage of the robbery.

Bardney did not have an attorney listed for these new charges and the public defender’s office, which had previously represented him, did not respond to a request for comment.

Howard County State’s Attorney Richard Gibson said prosecutors ripped up their agreement with Bardney after he absconded, and he was sentenced to the maximum of 15 years for robbery conspiracy earlier this year.

Gibson said Bardney now being linked to a killing while he was on the run was “tragic.”

“We are definitely very, very sorry that anyone suffered further due to Mr. Bardney’s choice to be a criminal,” Gibson said in an interview.

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Malabayabas’ family declined to comment Tuesday.

When told of the news, Jomar Pimentel, who attended military academy with Malabayabas in the Philippines and was a longtime friend, exclaimed: “That’s crazy. Oh my goodness.”

“Why they let him go on house arrest? Why they didn’t put him in jail, so he cannot leave, and he cannot kill somebody out there?”

Here’s a timeline of Bardney’s cases:

⋅ Ronald Carolina Jr., 27, was fatally shot March 28, 2019 in Columbia’s Harper’s Choice Village Center. Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Hammond said a group of people robbed Carolina of a pound of marijuana.

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⋅ Just days later, Bardney, who police said was living in Columbia at the time, and Daniel Keantay Owens, 24, also of Columbia, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and related charges.

⋅ In October, two more suspects were arrested: Ryan Lee Sonifrank, 35, of Laurel, and Curtis Shelton Buckner, 16, of Columbia, were charged with first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, armed robbery, robbery, theft and related charges.

⋅ Prosecutors say Bardney agreed to cooperate and pleaded guilty to robbery conspiracy charges in June 2021. He’d already been incarcerated two years in pretrial detention, and prosecutors agreed that he would not serve any additional time in exchange for his cooperation. He was released on GPS monitoring and told to comply with all terms of his supervision.

⋅ Court records show Bardney was twice found to be in violation, in late July 2021 and again in October 2021, with a judge issuing bench warrants. But prosecutors said they were minor infractions related to billing and charging of his GPS tracker, and that he reported to court.

⋅ On March 23, 2022, Bardney cut off his device and fled. He would remain on the lam for the rest of the year.

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⋅ Malabayabas was attacked and killed Aug. 20, 2022. A native of the Philippines who served as a Navy pilot there, Malabayabas had moved to Baltimore around 2007 and worked at Morgan Stanley, according to his LinkedIn profile and a 2013 feature story about him in the Catholic Review.

The article described him as an enthusiastic volunteer who regularly cleared brush, overgrown grass and debris from the perimeter of Patterson Lake. He also helped with a team that planted and cared for trees at the park and tended to the garden near the Patterson Park Observatory.

“He just instilled in everyone the importance of community and volunteerism, and was just always a smiling face no matter what was going on,” Katie Long, program director for Friends of Patterson Park, said last year.

⋅ Bardney was twice reported to police in the ensuing months, and was nearly caught.

Bardney’s ex-girlfriend called police on Sept. 28, 2022, saying he came to her home and was trying to get inside. She told him to leave and locked herself in a room, and he broke her kitchen window and crawled in, injuring himself and leaving a blood trail. Police were unable to locate him at that time.

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Baltimore City Police next encountered Bardney on Nov. 3, 2022, after a contractor working on a home in West Baltimore reported a breaking and entering. The contractor provided a photo of two people he saw fleeing the home, and police tracked them down. It was Bardney and a female companion. Police said Bardney tried to get away, and suffered cuts to his knees during a scuffle. He was taken to Grace Medical Hospital for treatment. There, despite being in a hospital gown and handcuffed in the front, he was able to escape.

⋅ Bardney was finally apprehended in mid-December 2022.

⋅ He was sentenced in the Howard County case and is currently serving his 15-year sentence at Roxbury Correctional Institute. In the city, he pleaded guilty in February to one count of second-degree escape and a malicious destruction of property charge related to the hospital escape and breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home. He received a sentence of 20 months for those incidents, records show.

In the Howard County killing, Buckner, who was 15 at the time, admitted to pulling the trigger, and would later be sentenced to life with all but 30 years suspended.

Charges against Owens and Sonifrank were dropped, and Gibson now concedes the case “was never particularly strong.” He said Bardney’s cooperation falling apart was not the reason the cases were abandoned.

He said working with Bardney was part of the difficult job of achieving justice.

“There will be times when you have to interact with, for lack of better words, unsavory people to achieve the greater good,” Gibson said. “All you can do is put in reasonable safeguards in the hopes they will comply. For most people, a deal that said you don’t have to serve any more time in exchange for your testimony would be enough of an enticement to keep them on a straight narrow path. He chose a different path.”

Baltimore Banner reporter Cadence Quaranta contributed to this article.

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries. 

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