The carnage is continuing

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

January 02, 1992|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

The sun rose yesterday at 7:26 a.m.

Shortly after 6 a.m., before the sun could even shine upon the new year, the city claimed its first homicide victim of 1992.

Her name was Theresa Rozzell.

She was 30 years old.

She was found dead in her apartment in the 2400 block of Loyola Northway with multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

Who killed her? Why?

Police do not know yet, although they said the motive may have been drug-related because they found drug paraphernalia in the victim's apartment.

But we do know that Rozzell's death marked the city's earliest slaying in recent years.

Last year, the first homicide victim was not killed until 11 a.m. on New Year's Day. She was Daisy Hill, 60, who was shot to death by a friend during an argument in West Baltimore.

In 1990, Baltimore did not score its first kill until 7:25 p.m. Jan. 2. He was Carlos Henson, 15, who was found face down in an alley behind Penrose Avenue with two gunshot wounds in the chest.

And in 1989, it took until 11:08 p.m. on Jan. 2 for Paul Van Kirk, 34, to die of gunshot wounds he received after getting into an argument with a group of teen-age boys six hours earlier.

Since 1989, there have been 869 killings in Baltimore -- 259 that year, 305 in 1990, 304 in 1991, and 1 in 1992.

The city continues to devour its own.

It seems insatiable.

*

The Villa Ridge Apartments are at the bottom of a steep, winding hill that coils away from Pimlico Road.

It was dark there yesterday evening, and deathly quiet.

Theresa Charlene Rozzell, the first murder victim of 1992, lived on the third floor with her son, who was spending the night with relatives and didn't see his mother killed.

Police do not know very much about her. The preliminary police report describes her as 5 feet tall. She weighed 98 pounds. They believe she was unemployed. They said her son is 9 or 10 years old.

"We just notified her family and, understandably, they were very upset," explained a shift commander at Northern District. "There was no rush. We can come back and interview them later."

"Theresa had a beautiful personality," said Clarence Phillip Smith, the victim's downstairs neighbor. Smith was in his apartment, huddled underneath a blanket, battling the flu. The television was on.

"She was pleasant all of the time," he continued. "She never had anything bad to say about anybody."

"The thing that devastates me about all this is that I had just talked to Theresa right after the ball came down," he continued.

"The last thing she said was 'Happy New Year, Phil, I love you. You're a good friend.' Then she threw her arms around me and I thew my arms around her and we just hugged."

He said he had been in his apartment celebrating the new year with friends and relatives early yesterday when the murder occurred.

"Suddenly, we heard these gunshots. Then footsteps coming down the steps real fast. My sister said it sounded like the shots came from upstairs, so we went up fast, yelling, 'Theresa! 'Theresa!' "

When they got to the third floor, they found the door to Rozzell's apartment partly ajar. Rozzell was lying on the couch covered in blood. An ambulance crew later pronounced her dead on the scene at 6:04 a.m.

While we were talking in Smith's apartment, the local television newscast began. The lead story, of course, focused on Theresa Charlene Rozzell, the year's first homicide victim.

Smith and I watched a film of paramedics carrying her body out of the apartment building on a stretcher.

The next story told about a 17-year-old New Yorker who had been shot in the head during an apparent drug-related robbery in West Baltimore Dec 30. He died on New Year's Eve.

In the third story, a television reporter interviewed participants at a Stop the Killing Rally.

"I'll tell you," said Smith. "There's so much stuff going on, it's crazy. I don't know what to think."

He coughed.

"This is a hell of a way to start the new year," he said miserably.

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