Helga Smith once joked to her brother, a resident of Ottawa, that she could "spot a Canadian a mile away."
She proved it 12 days ago when she saw a Canadian soldier who was the subject of a massive police hunt and called 911 to report him.
Her sharp eyes and sense of civic duty earned her a Good Citizenship Award Monday evening from Col. Elmer H. Tippett, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, at a reception in Baltimore.
Smith, aRealtor for Long & Foster in Crofton, was driving to an appointment to show a home June 8, when she spotted a man in army fatigues with abundle under his arm walking down the Crownsville exit off Interstate 97 at about 3:30 p.m.
The pedestrian was Pvt. Eric William Schumacher, 21, one of two fugitive Canadian soldiers wanted in connectionwith the shooting of a Toronto police officer and a shootout with two Maryland state troopers.
"We made eye contact," recalled the Gambrills resident. "I looked at him and he looked at me and he knew I knew. He had fatigue army pants on, and I said, 'Wow, wasn't the fugitive from Canada wearing fatigue pants?' Then I saw a bundle under hisarm and by then he was walking toward me and I said, 'Wow.' It was his face that I saw in the paper."
Smith immediately pulled into the Chevron gas station on Generals Highway to call the police.
"I was the first person to call it in," said Smith.
The long manhunt ended shortly after on a quiet suburban street when Schumacher was arrested by an off-duty state trooper, 1st Sgt. Thomas Ingram, who had been doing yard work.
Smith's husband, Louis, a member of the Baltimore-Metro Crime Scene Search Team, is a police volunteer at the GlenBurnie barracks and helped look for the fugitives' weapon. He was invited by Lt. Guy Guyton, commander of the barracks, to the Baltimore reception.
Helga Smith assumed she was simply accompanying her husband. "It was a surprise to me. I didn't think anything of it. I had no idea I was going to get this award."
"I'm quite proud of her," said Louis Smith. "She is much more alert while driving than I am. I was hoping to put the icing on the cake and find the gun, but a friend of mine found it on Thursday."
Helga Smith said three motorists ahead of her on the ramp probably saw the suspect, too. "We were moving about 20 miles per hour, and I was thinking they would stop. But no one stopped.
"I didn't realize it until afterward, this bundle here under his arm, it was round. A gun looks kind of long. He was carrying this high-powered pistol. When our eyes met he could have opened up. When they arrested him it was loaded," she said.
Smith addedshe'd like to put it all behind her now as she prepares for a trip to Canada to attend the wedding of one of her brother's children.
Smith told her brother to "keep your criminals up there. Since this Canadian thing happened, I guess I'll be the star up there, too."