Howard County police were waiting for an autopsy scheduled today to determine what caused the death of a 57-year-old teacher, whose body was found behind a Columbia convenience store.
Police said they believed the victim, Shirley Rue Mullinix, had been murdered, although they would not comment on outward indications of how such a slaying might have been done.
Mrs. Mullinix, of the 13500 block of Argo Drive in Dayton, had worked in the county schools for at least three years, police said. School officials still would not comment early this afternoon about where she taught, how long or what subjects.
She was wearing a jacket, jeans and a sweater when her body was discovered, but police said they found no purse or identification with her.
"She had a patch on her jacket that indicated Howard County parks and recreation," said Sgt. Gary Gardner, a county police spokesman. "Her first name was below the patch."
Police contacted the parks and recreation department, where records showed that a Shirley Mullinix had received the patch as part of a hiking program, Sergeant Gardner said. The patch was awarded for having hiked the 42-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.
The state medical examiner's office in Baltimore, meanwhile, was expected to determine the cause of death sometime today.
"We can speculate [how she died], but we will wait for the autopsy," Sergeant Gardner said.
Two children riding bicycles discovered Mrs. Mullinix's body about 4 p.m. yesterday against the rear of the High's store in the 7600 block of Murray Hill Road in Columbia, police said.
Police believe she was killed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. yesterday, Sergeant Gardner said. He said investigators were uncertain whether she died there or if she had been killed elsewhere and her body dumped there.
Police also were still trying to determine a motive for a homicide, Sergeant Gardner said.
This was the first homicide of 1992 in Howard County, where murder is an unusual occurrence. Nine homicides were recorded during each 1991 and 1989, the highest annual figure in county history.