Emotional Scars Linger From Mother's Death

Three Brothers Try To Deal With Pain

January 02, 1992|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

The police flashlight shining in their faces, a gun blast, massive confusion . . . for 8-year-old Dennis Wormsley, those are the vivid memories of the night his mother was shot and killed by county police.

A lot has happened since Oct. 20, 1989, when he and his two brothers were put to bed at a friend's home, where their pregnant mother, 26-year-old Crystal Nelson, was baby-sitting.

"She was having a baby and the bullet went through the baby's head," Dennis said. "I blame the police. They shot her and they didn't say anything to us."

Nelson was shot and killed by a county police officer while a search warrant was being served at the Severn home. The young mother was asleep on a sofa when officers entered the home with flashlights and tried to get her up from the sofa.

Police reported that an officer's weapon -- a 9mm semiautomatic handgun -- went off accidentally, shooting Nelson in the back. State's Attorney FrankWeathersbee found Officer Thomas Gordon Tyzack Jr. to have been negligent, but the policeman did not face criminal charges.

Tyzack wasplaced on administrative leave with pay. He later was returned to administrative duties in the Criminal Investigation Division.

"We were asleep upstairs and I saw the police put his flashlight on us," 10-year-old Andre Nelson said. "They didn't say anything."

The experience exacted its toll on the boys, who were taken in by their grandmother, Virginia Wallace.

Screams and outbursts in school followed,as well as poor grades. The boys received no counseling or assistance from the county school system.

Annapolis psychologist Orlie Reid, who read about the boys' plight, took the brothers under his wing two years ago.

Swimming competitions in the summer and karate lessons year-round provide outlets for frustration, anger and aggression. Tutoring twice a week at Reid's office has helped improve the boys' grades at Annapolis Area Christian School, where they were given scholarships.

But counseling has been the key component. Reid has optedto confront those problems head-on.

A uniformed Annapolis police officer was brought in to help the brothers understand that they should not distrust all police.

"They hated all officers," Reid said recently at his West Street office, his arms around the boys. "I triedto help them work through their feelings by having an officer spend time with them.

"What the officer essentially did was to talk about what officers do and the difference between good behavior and bad. I wanted them to see that they can't judge all cops by one cop. They were pretty honest and asked why they (police) had to shoot people who didn't do anything. By the end, they were much more comfortable."

Reid says the progress is obvious, even though there is still work to be done.

"It used to be hard," 12-year-old Toure said. "I wouldn't say anything. I would just keep it inside. Mr. Reid helped, and it helped talking to the officer.

"I like some police officers, butnot that one who did it. I don't remember him."

Andre says he hascome to terms with the past. "I think about it now," he said. "I think that it wasn't really his fault. I think he made a mistake."

But Dennis is not convinced.

"I still hate police officers, because they shot her. It could have been avoided if they turned on a light and just saw her. They were looking for somebody else.

"I would saythat they should fire the officer that did it."

Reid operates notonly a private counseling practice, but Individual and Family Concerns -- a non-profit corporation financed through his private practice -- for students having trouble with school.

The walls in Reid's waiting room are covered with his success stories. The report cards of students once frequently suspended or near expulsion are displayed proudly -- with honors.

And there are pictures of the three brothers, swimming and practicing karate.

"I didn't want to come to a psychologist at first," Toure said while doing his homework at Reid's office.

"We started getting in karate and swimming. We do a lot of stuff. We plan parties and get tutored.

"We've got better manners now, and self-discipline from karate, since we've been coming to Mr. Reid," he added. "It helped with self-confidence."

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