Mall slaying of teacher's aide stuns students, friends

June 08, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez and Robert A. Erlandson Traci A. Johnson, Jessamy Brown and Roger Twigg of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

The children of Riverview Elementary School want to know: "Why did someone kill Mrs. Tyson?"

"On a child's level that's where it begins and ends: 'Why did it happen?' " Mark Gruber, a friend of Jane Tyson, said yesterday. "And that's one question we can't answer, short of saying there are some very sick people in the world."

Police say Mrs. Tyson, 49, was shot to death in a $10 robbery.

Just after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the popular grade-school teacher's aide was finishing up some shopping at Westview Mall, helping her grandchildren get into her car on the parking lot.

The next moment, a man with a gun was demanding her pocketbook.

When Mrs. Tyson screamed, the man shot her in the head, grabbed her purse and left her to die in front of her 6-year-old grandson and 4-year-old granddaughter.

Yesterday, adults tried to explain the unexplainable to the children who had known and loved Mrs. Tyson at Riverview Elementary near Lansdowne in southwestern Baltimore County.

A classroom employee there for 10 years -- and a mentor to rookie teachers -- Mrs. Tyson worked with second-graders and helped out in arts and crafts.

A team of psychologists, social workers and nurses began working with those same second-graders and other students early yesterday morning, and they will stay as long as the children need help.

"We want to show them that we understand their fear and we're going to help them conquer their fear," said Richard E. Bavaria, a spokesman for the county school system. "We're going to show them that most adults can be trusted."

Crisis teams also were present yesterday at Johnnycake Elementary School, where Mrs. Tyson's husband, John, is the principal.

"The principal is a highly visible person. His tragedy impacted not only the staff but the students," said David Leasure, a crisis team member and a friend of the Tysons. "Some of the kids said they will go up to him and give him a hug when he gets back."

Mr. Gruber, who teaches third grade at Johnnycake, said: "Most of the students didn't know her personally, but several did. I told them we could only be sad and miss a really sweet lady."

"I just spoke to her yesterday," Anne Hutchinson, a secretary at the school office, said. "She sent in a strawberry pie for the office and when she called in to talk with her husband, . . . I got on the phone to say, 'Thank you, Jane. Thank you.' "

Baltimore County police said Mrs. Tyson of the 6500 block Redgate Circle, Westview Park, was shot as she was about to leave the mall parking lot behind the Caldor store, where people were walking to and from the mall and their cars.

As Mrs. Tyson sat behind the wheel of her car, a man approached the driver's side. Witnesses said they heard a gunshot and saw the man run across the parking lot and jump into a Chevrolet Blazer.

One bystander ran to Mrs. Tyson's car and shepherded the grandchildren to security officers in the mall.

Scott R. Faust, who was driving through the parking lot just as the shot was fired, began chasing the gunmen off the lot.

"I saw the woman lying on the ground; her head was all bloody. The truck took off like a bat out of hell. Then I saw the little girl, about 4, run around the car yelling, 'Mommy, Mommy, or Mom-Mom,' and I took off after them," said Mr. Faust, a vending machine supervisor from Lansdowne.

Mr. Faust said the two men never saw his car as he drew up behind them, swinging around both sides of the Blazer to get a good look at them as they "drove nonchalantly" along U.S. 40 toward Baltimore.

But Mr. Faust, who raced to catch up to the Blazer, was busy scribbling its tag number and descriptions of both men on a Kleenex box. He returned to the mall and turned the information over to a police officer. Within minutes, the fugitives were trapped in their car in the 4600 block of Old Frederick Road.

Mr. Faust later identified the two men at the Woodlawn Police Station.

He admitted that he "was a little bit scared" when the chase began, but when he realized that the suspects had no idea they were being followed, he wrote down as much detail as he could.

"I'm just glad I was able to do it," said Mr. Faust, who had been at the scene of the slaying because he visits his ailing father every night and parks behind his house at the mall. "It would have been over and done with if I hadn't been there."

The Blazer was at least a half-mile ahead when the chase began, Mr. Faust said.

"I went up to 100 miles an hour, through red lights and across double yellow lines to catch up," he said. "They drove off very nonchalantly toward the inner city. They had no idea anyone was following them. They stayed right between 40 and 45 miles an hour. They were carrying on a casual conversation."

Wesley Eugene Baker, 33, of the 1300 block Homestead Street, Waverly, and Gregory Lawrence, 34, of the first block Cheviot Court, Woodlawn, were charged with first-degree murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.

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