Violent death is no stranger to the Webb family.
When Harold L. Webb was shot to death about 12:45 a.m. last Friday at his home near Sparks after letting two strangers in to use the telephone, it was almost as if history was repeating itself.
Thirty-four years ago, Mr. Webb's first wife was shot and killed about the same time by a family friend who apparently mistook her for a burglar when she was scratching at his bedroom window in the middle of the night.
Virginia Theresa Webb was a 39-year-old mother of four when she was killed Aug. 15, 1956. She and her husband, who was working as a general contractor at the time, were living on Bond Avenue in Glyndon.
The day began normally enough for Mrs. Webb, who was seen about noon shopping at a store in Towson. But about 13 hours later, shewas lying on a friend's lawn in the Reisterstown area, where she bled to death from a gunshot wound.
The detective who investigated the killing died in 1973, but what happened on that day was reconstructed from old newspaper clippings, the recollections of a former county prosecutor, Frank H. Newell III, and Mr. Webb's brother, Francis, 74, now of Port Isabel, Texas.
Police and the state's attorney's office determined at the time that Mrs. Webb had gone to the home of Richard W. Kanode on Piney Grove Road, apparently to roust him from bed
as a prank.
Mr. Kanode, a 28-year-old salesman at the time, thought she was a prowler and killed her with a single shot through the window. He was later cleared of any criminal charges when the slaying was ruled accidental.
Mr. Newell, who now has a private law practice, recalled the case well.
"We were wondering what she was doing there," he said. "We investigated to see if something fishy was going on. Our investigation at that time determined that he had no idea that she was coming over. Otherwise, I would have had him up for murder charges."
Investigators determined that Mrs. Webb had joined friends at the Grand View Inn on Hanover Road for cocktails and dinner. She left that group and then joined other friends for the evening at the same place.
A friend who was with Mrs. Webb told investigators she asked him to go with her to awaken Mr. Kanode. The man said he followed Mrs. Webb's car as far as Mr. Kanode's street and then decided to drive home.
Mr. Kanode, who lived with his mother in a house near Old Hanover Pike, told police that he was awakened about 12:40 a.m. by a scratching noise on the screen of his ground-floor bedroom window.
He reached for a .44-caliber revolver he kept in a holster hanging on his bedpost, fired a shot at a shadow he saw flit past his window and then grabbed a flashlight and ran outside to see what had happened.
He found Mrs. Webb lying on his lawn about 10 feet from the house. The bullet had passed through her heart and out her back.
Mr. Kanode then called Baltimore County police at the Reisterstown station and said, "I shot somebody."
Mrs. Webb was pronounced dead at the scene. Her 1955 convertible was found parked in the driveway of the Kanode home, with her purse still on the seat.
Mr. Kanode was arrested and later was freed after posting $20,000 bail. The police, the state's attorney's office and a grand jury investigated the killing before deciding about 10 days later that it had been an accident.
E. Jay Miller, spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said there did not appear to be a connection between the two killings.
"We are aware of the former incident," Mr. Miller said. "At this point, there is nothing to cause us to reopen it."
The investigation into the death of Harold Webb, 75, is now centered on two suspects who are being held without bond.
Thomas E. Crawford, 31, and Cynthia L. Levering, 28, who live together in the 5100 block of Ardmore Way in Gardenville, have been charged with first-degree murder in what police suspect was an attempted robbery.
Police allege that the home of Harold and Joanne Webb, 66, his wife of almost 24 years, was specifically targeted.
Mrs. Webb told police that she and her husband were awakened by a knock and that upon reaching their front door, they noticed a man walking away. Mrs. Webb knocked on a window and motioned for the man to wait until the door could be opened.
The attempted robbery apparently went awry when the man reached into his jacket, frightening Mrs. Webb, police said. She then hit him over the head with a portable telephone and chased him when he began running through the house, firing shots at her as he fled out the back door.
In the confusion that followed, nothing was stolen, but Mrs. Webb returned to the front door to find her husband dead of multiple gunshot wounds.