The children in Latrobe Homes called William L. Shird the "bird man." A neighbor described him as a "real nice churchgoing man" who was liked by all of the residents in the East Baltimore public housing complex.
Yesterday, Mr. Shird, 72, was found slain in his apartment in the 1000 block of Webb Court. His body was discovered by his eldest daughter, one of 40 children Mr. Shird fathered during five marriages. As the news of Mr. Shird's death spread yesterday, his neighbors had difficulty comprehending why someone would kill the man who had worked so hard to keep the complex clean and free of drugs.
Rosaria E. Lancaster, a neighbor, described Mr. Shird as a "real nice churchgoing man. Everyone liked him. That's why everyone is so shocked. He didn't have an enemy. I never heard him have a cross word with anybody," she said.
Jean A. Booker, 55, daughter of the slain man, discovered the body after going to his apartment with a cousin. "He was a nice gentle man," Mrs. Booker said. "I don't know why anybody would want to hurt him. He was a happy-go-lucky man. He was too friendly. I told him to stop letting people in his home."
Detective David J. Brown of the homicide unit said Mr. Shird was found lying on the kitchen floor of his first-floor apartment just before 10 a.m. He had been stabbed numerous times. A preliminary investigation determined that Mr. Shird was killed late Wednesday night. His body was taken to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy.
Detective Brown said robbery was the apparent motive. There were no suspects, and police were working with the victim's relatives last night to determine what may have been stolen.
Mrs. Booker said her father received $585 each month from Social Security. Other than money, there was little else to be stolen, she added.
Originally, one of her cousins had intended to take Mr. Shird shopping yesterday. But the cousin asked Mrs. Booker to meet him at the apartment when Mr. Shird failed to answer his telephone.
When they arrived, they found the rear door open and Mr. Shird on the kitchen floor, Mrs. Booker said.
Mrs. Booker said her father had been married five times, fathered 40 children and had over 100 grandchildren and several dozen great-grandchildren.
Over the years, Mr. Shird had been employed as an auxiliary police officer, as a maintenance worker for the city Housing Authority and as a welder, she said.
But she said her father had not worked in more than 30 years because of physical problems and he existed on his Social Security check. Mrs. Booker said her father was a diabetic who also suffered from heart ailments and high blood pressure.
Neighbors said the victim was an extremely active man in the community and participated in anti-drug campaigns and neighborhood cleanup programs. Mr. Shird regularly fed the birds, and neighborhood children dubbed him the "bird man."
"He had them so trained that they would actually perch right on him," Mrs. Lancaster said. He also fed the squirrels.
Mr. Shird moved into Latrobe Homes in 1989 and immediately started going door to door encouraging people to compete in a neighborhood cleanup campaign sponsored by the Afro-American newspaper.
Mr. Shird was also active in the "Just Say No" drug campaign and worked with Bea Gaddy, an activist known for helping the homeless, neighbors said.