A 27-year-old maintenance man who court documents say confessed to the stabbing death of a Towson sales clerk was ordered held without bail in an unusual closed-door bail review hearing today in Towson District Court.
After Judge Lawrence Daniels ordered the hearing closed to the public and press, Robert Patrick Lipinski, of the first block of Oakwood Road in Dundalk, was denied bail and ordered returned to the county detention center.
"I didn't mean to hurt anybody," witnesses quoted Lipinski as saying in court. "I just snapped."
Court papers said Lipinski was the last person known to have seen Eugenia "Gina" Courtalis alive Saturday as he arrived to clean the Nutri-Systems Weight Loss Center where she worked in Towson Marketplace. He gave a confession statement to two detectives yesterday, the file said.
Sources said today he told police that his family was about to be forced out of their Dundalk apartment and that Courtalis' criticism of his work Saturday caused him to snap and take out all his frustration by attacking her.
About 60 relatives and friends of the 22-year-old victim, who lived in the 4200 block of Darnall Road in Perry Hall, packed the courtroom today during the brief hearing. Many were dressed in black.
Daniels could not be reached for comment on why the hearing was closed.
Before the bail review hearing, police had withheld where the suspect was being held and even the site of the hearing.
Police spokesman E. Jay Miller said, "We have our reasons," but would not provide any details. Miller admitted the move was unusual.
About 3:30 p.m. yesterday at headquarters in Towson, police charged Lipinski with murder in the stabbing death of Courtalis.
Courtalis' body was found early Sunday in a rear file room of the Nutri-System center in the 1200 block of Putty Hill Ave., police said. She had multiple stab wounds in her back.
Miller said Lipinski, who is married and the father of three small children, arrived at police headquarters yesterday afternoon for an appointment to be interviewed about the slaying.
"After the interview," Miller said, "he was charged with first-degree murder."
Miller said evidence he wouldn't reveal had led to the charge against Lipinski, who worked for the past six months for Genie Cleaning Services, a private firm on Gateswood Road in Timonium that cleans shopping malls and other businesses.
From police headquarters, the 5-foot, 8-inch, 150-pound Lipinski appeared before a District Court commissioner, who ordered him held without bail at an undisclosed location for today's bail review hearing.
Lipinski was among several people questioned Sunday about the slaying, Miller said. He said homicide detectives learned more about the man that led them to question him again yesterday.
He said there was no evidence Courtalis and Lipinski knew each other or had ever met. But the two apparently argued Saturday.
"We think he lost his temper," said Miller. "We know that he and his wife were to be evicted [from their home] soon and that he had personal and financial problems that may have overwhelmed him."
Miller said a knife now in police custody may be the murder weapon. "We still have the results of tests to look at before we'll know for certain if the knife was used in the slaying," he said.
He declined to describe the knife or say how police came to possess it.
Courtalis was to have closed the store between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, police said. When she failed to return home, her mother called police.
When an officer arrived at the center Sunday, members of the victim's family were there. Despite the officer's urging that they stay outside the store, they went inside and were present when Courtalis' body was found.
Funeral services for Courtalis will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2504 Cub Hill Road. Burial will be in the church cemetery.