A neighborhood is uneasy after slaying of boy, 7 They fear for safety of their children, parents say

February 18, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

Residents of an East Baltimore neighborhood are uneasy following the slaying of a 7-year-old boy who had been stabbed, strangled and sexually molested.

The body of Rodney James Champy, of the 1500 block of Lester Morton Court, was discovered by his mother after she returned home from work last Friday, police said.

An autopsy by the state medical examiner's office revealed that Rodney had been stabbed, strangled and sodomized, police said.

Police say they have no suspect in the boy's slaying.

Until the assailant is caught, neighbors, including, Gladys F. Hill, say they fear for their children's safety.

"I'm a little afraid for my youngest girl who is 15," Hill said yesterday. "What happened . . . is unbelievable."

About 4 p.m. Friday, Jacqueline Cumberbatch, 35, the mother of the slain second-grader, returned home from work and found her son dead in a bedroom in their scantily furnished apartment, said homicide Detective Oscar Requer.

Cumberbatch told police the front door was ajar when she returned home. After entering the apartment, she noticed that her son's coat wasn't in the place where he normally put it when he returned home from Thomas G. Hayes Elementary School in the 600 block of N. Central Ave., Requer said.

She assumed Rodney had gone to a friend's house as she instructed him to do every morning, Requer said.

When Cumberbatch tried to enter the bedroom, where she and Rodney slept on a mattress, the door was locked, Requer said.

Cumberbatch got a kitchen knife, opened the door, found her son dead and called police, he said.

"She's just hysterical, distraught. He was her only child," Requer said. "It's pretty clear they were close."

"The cause of [Rodney's] death was strangulation and a stab wound to the chest," said Dr. Donald Wright, a deputy chief state medical examiner.

An autopsy was performed Saturday.

Requer said there was evidence that Rodney had been sodomized.

Cumberbatch told police that she left her apartment daily at 5:30 a.m. to go to the Maryland Hospital Laundry Inc., where she worked from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

That morning as usual, she gave Rodney instructions about going to school and coming home, Requer said.

"He'd get up and put on his uniform and walk a block and a half to school and there, he'd have breakfast in a program for underprivileged children," Requer said.

On Friday, Cumberbatch "worked an hour of overtime," the detective said.

Cumberbatch, a native of New York, is staying with friends, Requer said.

Because she and her son moved into the apartment about a month ago and didn't have many belongings, Requer said he believes the crime was sexually motivated and not a robbery.

"This is just one of the most brutal cases I've seen in many a years," said Requer, a homicide detective for 13 years.

"We're all out to get the person who did this," he said, adding that police are thoroughly examining physical evidence recovered from the murder scene. "He [the slayer] had to be a sick individual."

Yesterday, ministers from First Baptist Church of the Rising Sun went door to door in the neighborhood to collect money for

Rodney's mother to help with funeral expenses.

"It's just a shame," said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "You can't get past the shock."

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