An intruder broke into a rural Baltimore County home yesterday evening and stabbed three elderly people, killing a woman and inflicting serious wounds on her husband and a close friend, and then set fire to the house.
After a four-hour manhunt in nearby woods by more than 40 police officers with dogs and a helicopter, a 30-year-old man from Aberdeen was arrested outside the home of an off-duty policeman.
The attack culminated a day of violence. Police said the suspect tried yesterday morning to strangle a taxicab driver in Bel Air and then stole his cab, which he drove to the scene of the stabbings. The cab was also set on fire.
The suspect, a man dressed in black clothes and a bandanna, was arrested at 9:35 p.m. carrying a shotgun or rifle taken from the home, said E. Jay Miller, a Baltimore County police spokesman.
Charles Henry Emanuel of the 300 block of Oak St. in Aberdeen was charged with first-degree murder and was being held at the Cockeysville precinct early today.
Mr. Miller said the motive for the break-in appeared to be robbery.
Police arrived at the home in the 21000 block of West Liberty Road, in West Liberty east of Parkton, at 5:30 p.m. and found 70-year-old Margaret Attwell, stabbed and dead on the bedroom floor.
Her husband, James Attwell, 72, had been stabbed in the abdomen, and Clara Vickers, 82, who was visiting the couple from Booker, Texas, had been stabbed in the chest, Mr. Miller said.
They were flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where Ms. Vickers was reported in critical condition and Mr. Attwell in serious but stable condition.
A rear door of the frame bungalow had been forced open, several furnishings were thrown about, and material in a bathtub FTC was set afire, causing moderate smoke damage to the house, police said.
Police found the stolen, burned Victory cab in a grassy area off West Liberty Road about half a mile west of the murder scene.
Mr. Miller said information about the intruder was difficult to obtain because Ms. Vickers was unconscious when police arrived and Mr. Attwell is a deaf-mute.
But Mr. Attwell was able to communicate that he attempted to stop the attacker and was overpowered. Covered in blood, he ran to a nearby home in the 2100 block of Gibson Road and used a handwritten note to ask the homeowners to summon help, Mr. Miller said.
The note said: "Tell emergency to come at once. Wife's on floor stabbed. Black man with towel or mask. Tried to catch . . . failed."
About 40 officers from Baltimore and Harford counties, assisted by state troopers from both Maryland and Pennsylvania,
searched for the suspect with a state police helicopter and two canine units.
But the arrest was made by an off-duty Baltimore County police officer, Donald Chilcoat, who lives in the nearby 3000 block of Anderson Road and had been following the events of the day on a police radio, Mr. Miller said.
Officer Chilcoat's father, county fire Capt. Larry Chilcoat, had been dining with the officer and other relatives, including Brian Wisnom, a cousin who is a state trooper, when the father -- carrying a pistol as a precaution -- walked to his nearby home about 9:30 p.m. and saw the suspect on his porch.
The man stepped off the porch, Captain Chilcoat fired a shot that brought the rest of his family running and Officer Chilcoat ordered the suspect to get down on the ground. "They got his hands behind him and sat on him," Mr. Miller said.
Police in Bel Air said that the taxicab had been reported stolen at 8:30 a.m. after its driver was choked by a passenger on Gateway Drive, in the rear of Harford Mall.
The unidentified cab driver told police he managed to break away after the passenger tried to strangle him.