Police in Salisbury today were searching for a suspect in the fatal stabbing of a Salisbury State University freshman who was killed at a local mall last night.
Meanwhile, fellow students and college officials attempted to deal with the grief that spread across the Eastern Shore campus.
The college's president, Thomas E. Bellavance, said today: "I'm very, very angry, in addition to being stunned and saddened. This girl had made lots of friends. She was at a mall, in the evening, with her friends. This country has gone mad."
According to a school spokesman, Bellavance and other top administrators established counseling centers and comforted the students throughout campus.
Last night, Heather Miller, 17, from the Pittsburgh suburb of Shaler, was stabbed to death in a bathroom of the Salisbury Mall, according to city police.
The attack occurred about 6:15 p.m. while the victim was visiting the mall with some friends. She was stabbed in a mall restroom, then staggered outside and collapsed in the mall's concourse. She was pronounced dead at nearby Peninsula General Hospital.
Police said the suspect is a black male about 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds.
The suspect was last seen wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and dark trousers. Witnesses told police his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred.
According to university officials, the suspect was spotted by several witnesses wandering around the mall. He reportedly asked several women if they were married.
A spokeswoman for Compass-Retail, a firm that manages the mall, today refused to respond to questions about security policies there. The spokeswoman said the firm was preparing a press release.
A police spokeswoman said today there have been no arrests and no warrants issued in connection with the killing. Robbery was the apparent motive, police said.
The mall is about five miles from the university and several properties are vacant there. Hecht's, considered one of the anchor stores, closed last spring.
Gains Hawkins, spokesman for Salisbury State University, said the campus "is somber, people both in the student body and administration are trying to deal with their grief."
The dean of students and other administrators were visiting student dormitories and counseling them, Hawkins said.
A memorial service is planned, he said. Also, the university will provide transportation to the victim's hometown to attend funeral services, which have not yet been set.
The university has a resident student population of 1,850 and a total enrollment of 5,700, he said.
Some worried parents have called the university, and, he said, "we have attempted to raise the consciousness of students that they should follow safeguards wherever they are."
The victim, Hawkins said, was a biology major and resided in the Manokin Dormitory. She started classes last Wednesday.
Last month, Miller attended a two-week orientation program called "Freshman in the Wilderness" in Ontario, Canada. There, with several counselors, freshmen camped, canoed and prepared for the new school year.
Miller was a graduate of Shaler Area High School, where she was enrolled in honors courses. She was editor of the school yearbook and played the lead in the high school's play "Annie." She also sang in the high school choir.
During the past several summers, Miller served as a volunteer at a camp for handicapped children. As a younger child, she delivered newspapers.
"She was bookish, quiet, intelligent," one neighbor in Shaler said.
The victim's parents, Richard and Karen, were in Baltimore, where an autopsy was performed at the state Medical Examiner's Office. Miller had two other sisters.
"She looked like she was off to a good start here," a shaken Bellavance said.
"She and about three or four of her friends decided to go to the mall while one of them got fitted for glasses," he said. "It was a last-minute thing, after they ate dinner.
"I am very, very angry because this country has gone mad," Bellavance said. "We as a nation have made these phenomenal advances in computers, in space, in war machinery. But we've regressed to savagery.
"On a Monday evening, this young lady was killed at a mall for absolutely no reason."