On Sept. 16, the day before Valerie Brown was slain a few feet from her Baltimore County motel room, she spent the entire Sunday on a horse farm outside her native Philadelphia, riding her horse, Gremlin.
Brown, 30, a college textbook saleswoman for Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., wasn't a superb rider, but she was gritty, said her friend, Caroline Canavan, the owner of the horse farm.
"She certainly had a big heart," Canavan said.
Over the four years Canavan knew her, Brown "broke her collar-bone. She broke her nose. She went through a lot [riding horses], but she kept coming back. She never gave up."
Yesterday, Baltimore County police, armed with a $10,000 reward from Brown's employer, began a push to find her killer, a man a detective described as a "cold-blooded, cowardly killer."
Detective Sgt. Sam Bowerman said he believes Brown, who offered no resistance the night she was robbed, was murdered simply to erase a witness.
"She offered no resistance," Bowerman said. "She would have given him anything he wanted, and still he shot her."
Brown, who drove to Baltimore Sept. 17 to sell textbooks at several area colleges, checked into room 128 at the Quality Inn motel on Baltimore National Pike near Westview Mall about 4:30 that afternoon.
She went to a friend's house for dinner, then left for her hotel about 10 p.m.
Brown's friend called the motel at 10:15 p.m. and 10:25 p.m., but got no answer, said John L. Shirley, the victim's boyfriend, who himself tried calling her from Philadelphia at 10:30 p.m.
Shirley, 31, who knew Brown since they were teen-agers, said they were planning to marry next spring. "We couldn't afford to do it this year. We were planning on May or June."
Motel security guards found Brown's body in a hallway in one of the motel's several buildings, just a few feet from her room, said Bowerman.
Brown had been shot once in the chest and robbed of her purse and a gold necklace with the figure of a horse hanging from the thin chain.
Police are hoping the necklace will surface and lead them to the killer, who police suspect may have also shot a kindergarten teacher outside Westview Mall the week before.
Katherine Dwyer, the teacher, was accosted outside the mall Sept. 8 after she loaded groceries in her truck and was preparing to leave, said Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger.
Dwyer told police that after she was seated in the truck, a young black man stuck a gun in the window and said, "Give it up."
Dwyer refused to hand over her purse. Instead, she grabbed for the pistol and during the struggle, the gun went off. A bullet passed downward through her left arm and into her chest, Doarnberger said.
Dwyer, who is recovering from her wounds, described her assailant as a young black man who fled in a car driven by an older black man, said Doarnberger.
Police believe the two attacks are related, because in both cases a woman was shot for her purse.
The reward money will be paid for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the killer, according to Brown's employer. Information should be provided to Bowerman at the Baltimore County Police Department, 301-887-3943; or to the Metro Crime Stoppers Hot Line, 301-276-8888.