Scalping suspect sought by police Victim in stable condition after undergoing surgery.

November 06, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

Police continued to search today for a 63-year-old man charged in an arrest warrant with scalping a woman as she lay in bed.

Sheila Cowherd, of the 1100 block of N. Carey St., was listed today in fair and stable condition at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore after undergoing surgery, a hospital spokeswoman said.

In connection with the scalping, Western District police have charged Edward William Littles, of the 5700 block of Race Road in Elkridge, in an arrest warrant with assault with intent to murder, battery and using deadly weapon to assault and injure Cowherd.

Police described Littles as 300 pounds, light-skinned, with wavy hair. He works as a truck driver.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Monday, a resident of a house in the 1100 block of N. Carrollton Ave. was summoned by a blood-soaked Cowherd to the second-floor bedroom where she had been attacked, police said. Her scalp was found underneath the bed.

"Thinking her scalp could be reattached, I immediately called Shock-Trauma," said homicide Detective Richard James. "They told me to place the hair and scalp in a plastic bag with ice and bring it to them as soon as possible."

Cowherd's scalp had been cut off from her forehead to the back of her neck, police said.

"She must have screamed, but nobody heard her scream," James said.

There were three elderly residents in the house at the time of the incident, police said.

One resident, Charlie "Rock" Watkins, 62, said that he "didn't hear anything." He was watching "MacGyver" downstairs when the suspect came to the house. "He asked if [he] could use the bathroom. I said, 'Yeah, you know where it is,' " Watkins said.

"He came right back, and said, 'I'll see you tomorrow,' " Watkins said.

Moments later, Cowherd, a friend of Watkins for almost two years, called out, "Hey Rock. Come here real quick."

"I saw all this blood when I got up the steps," said Watkins, whose walk has been slowed by a recent stroke. "It was bad."

Last night in the room where Cowherd had slept, dried blood spotted the floor and the walls, and bloodied sheets soaked in a tub. Watkins reached down and picked up a tuft of black hair off the floor. "I don't know what happened," he said.

Watkins said he didn't know the extent of the suspect's and Cowherd's relationship.

Police tried to question Cowherd, but she was in too much pain, James said.

According to two local plastic surgeons, there are several ways to reattach a scalp.

Dr. William G. Armiger, a local plastic and reconstructive surgeon, said his clients are treated when their scalp is ripped off accidentally when their hair becomes entangled in a machine.

"To have somebody scalped with a knife, I haven't heard of it happening in the 20th century. And to have it happen in Baltimore City is really a shame," Armiger said.

James was correct in placing the scalp in ice. "The sooner you put it in ice, the better chance of survival," Armiger said, citing the danger of damage to tissues. If the tissues survive, the hairs will grow back.

There are three medical options to replace the scalp, said Armiger and Dr. William Crawley, a plastic surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital:

* Microsurgery, in which the blood vessels are reconnected as the scalp is realigned to the head in an often tedious operation.

* Skin-grafting, in which outer layers of skin from a leg, for example, are transplanted to the head.

* Free-tissue transfer, in which tissues from skin or muscle from other parts of the body are transferred to the head.

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