Whenever silver-haired Mary Dorsey needed help, all she had to do was yell out her front window and help would come.
A stroke years ago had left the 70-year-old mother of four and grandmother of five paralyzed on one side of her body. She relied on her family and neighbors in the 1700 block of N. Wolfe St. for assistance.
"She knew everybody in the block," William Sneed, 64, a neighbor, said yesterday. "She'd ask people to put out her trash or go to the store for her."
"She'd call me to raise her window and fix her kitchen," said Charles Johnson, 59, Dorsey's handyman. "Anything break, she'd send for me."
Even the mailman helped. He would never leave Dorsey's mail outside, always taking it to her inside the house, neighbors said.
About 9:10 a.m. yesterday, a Baltimore Department of Social Services employee found Dorsey's body on a sofa in a first-floor front room, police said. It appeared that Dorsey had been murdered, because a bloodied towel was found near her body, police said.
An autopsy was to be performed to determine the exact cause of death, police said.
Police also said the house had been ransacked.
Annie Johnson, 55, the wife of Charles Johnson, said that she was in bed when the social worker knocked on her door.
"She said, 'Come over, please, come over,'" Annie Johnson recalled. "She said, 'I don't know what happened to her. I just found her in a pool of blood.'"
Yesterday, yellow tape used by police blocked off the front steps to Dorsey's home.
Neighbors sat on their marble steps, expressing disbelief that someone would murder Dorsey.
"It was surprising to everybody," said Anthony Browner, 35. "She was a well-liked person."
Dorsey's slaying "is a hurting thing," Charles Johnson said. He had known her almost 20 years and was waiting for her to call him to fix her leaky kitchen ceiling.
"There's nothing bad you can say about her," Sneed said.
About 6 a.m. yesterday, when Sneed left his house to go jogging, he noticed Dorsey's front window was down, he said. Normally it would be up. "I didn't pay it any mind," he said.
Neighbors said the killer may have known Dorsey.
Many of the elderly residents are already uneasy about being out at night in an area where gunshots are common. When dusk arrives, they go inside.
"They don't want to sit outside when a stray bullet could come around," Browner said.
In 1951, Dorsey and her husband, Michael, moved to the neighborhood. He was a railroad worker and she was a housewife, friends said. When her husband died four years ago, she stayed in the house alone, friends said.
Dorsey often attended Fountain Baptist Church on Monument Street.
In 1979, she had a stroke after which her daughter taught her how to use a walker, friends said.
Friends said Dorsey enjoyed going to the Inner Harbor with her two sons and two daughters, and sitting outside with them when they visited.
She enjoyed chatting with friends and neighbors. "If you go in there for five minutes, you might stay half an hour," Annie Johnson said.