A trail of violence that included three kidnappings and a murder led police to four teen-agers who were charged yesterday with snatching men from Baltimore parking garages so they could steal their bank and credit cards.
In addition to the murder of Vitalis Pilius, 37, of Catonsville, the teen-agers were linked to the abduction the previous Friday of a Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor and the kidnapping yesterday of a wholesale jewelry dealer.
Both the doctor and the jewelry dealer were stuffed in the trunks of their cars after being accosted by armed men. They later escaped unharmed -- the jewelry salesman by prying open the trunk, attracting a policeman's attention with a scarf and leaping out of the moving vehicle.
The common thread in the three cases was the oldest of the suspects, 18-year-old Dontay Carter, the only person charged in each crime and described by police as a friend of the others in custody.
The physician, Dr. Daniel Ford, was accosted at gunpoint in the Johns Hopkins Hospital garage on North Washington Street on Feb. 7 and locked for three hours in his car trunk before the vehicle was abandoned at Mondawmin Mall.
Police said the abductors took Dr. Ford's credit cards, which were used to buy two mopeds during a one-night spending spree totaling about $5,000.
Mr. Pilius had been missing since Tuesday afternoon, when he made his last call as a Hewlett-Packard Co. support technician at the New Community College of Baltimore's Harbor campus in the 600 block of East Lombard Street.
Early that afternoon, Mr. Pilius telephoned his wife and told her he was running late but would get home in the evening. He failed to show up for his next appointment, and was reported missing by his wife to the Baltimore County police Wednesday morning.
City police believe Mr. Pilius was abducted in his station wagon from the parking garage at the Harbor Park Cinema at 55 Market Place, near the downtown college campus, and was bludgeoned to death in the vacant house in the 2000 block of Mura Street where his body was found at 10 a.m. yesterday.
Shortly after Mr. Pilius disappeared, a young man tried to use the victim's American Express card at the Budget Rental Car desk at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said Joseph Millington, a personnel executive at the Hewlett-Packard offices in the 3700 block of Koppers Street.
"The rental guy at the counter noticed on the card check the person with the card was not 37 years old," Mr. Millington said. "So the manager held the guy and called the cops. They came and questioned him and let him go."
That account could not be confirmed with any police agencies.
But police believe the suspects used Mr. Pilius' Signet automatic teller machine card and American Express card to accumulate more than $4,600 in cash or purchases before the victim's wife ordered a "stop" on both cards.
One of the last withdrawals was on Wednesday from a Signet ATM machine in the 2000 block of East Monument Street, about a block from the Hopkins medical complex.
Mr. Millington said Mr. Pilius -- "a big guy, 6 feet 1 inches tall and 195 pounds" who worked for Hewlett-Packard three years and repaired analytical equipment -- was "extremely well liked."
Co-workers "used their off time to search for him, his car, anything they could find," the executive said.
Family members also were searching when a brother-in-law, Remigijus Balciunas, and a friend saw Mr. Pilius' station wagon being parked near Park Avenue and Fayette Street Thursday and a group of people -- two men, two women and an infant -- go from the vehicle to the nearby Omni International Hotel.
Mr. Balciunas followed the group, watched them ride an elevator to the 14th floor and then called the police, according to another brother-in-law, Arunas Vaskys.
One suspect, later identified as Dontay Carter, managed to escape as officers took the others into custody. The women were released after questioning, while Clarence Woodward, 16, of the 2400 block of East Hoffman Street, was arrested.
Interrogations led the police to Mr. Pilius' body in the littered basement on Mura Street -- in one of the vacant houses that a resident of the Collington Square neighborhood said are used by vagrants and drug users.
Detectives were searching for Mr. Carter -- who was released recently from prison on a theft conviction -- when he allegedly committed the final abduction about 1:30 p.m. yesterday on the third level of the Harbor Park garage. The victim, Douglas Legenhausen, 46, of the 6500 block of Beverly Road in Baltimore County, was forced at gunpoint into the trunk of his car.
Near the intersection of Homewood and Eager streets, Mr. Legenhausen managed to open the trunk, waved a scarf at police cruisers behind the car and leaped out.
Two officers saw the leap, and one took off after the driver. The suspect was captured nearby, in the 1000 block of Webb Court, and a handgun was seized, police said.