Yard hand accused in employer's slaying

July 30, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A 75-year-old former Catholic school teacher was found beaten to death in her Lochearn home yesterday after her hired yard hand told authorities he killed her, Baltimore County police said.

Isabelle Morrison Caldwell, who lived alone in a two-story brick house in the 3600 block of Oak Ave., was found dead on the floor of her living room shortly after 12:30 p.m., police said.

Charged with first-degree murder is her yard hand of several years, Allen Junior McDowell, 27, of the 1600 block of N. Calhoun St. in Baltimore, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a police spokesman.

"He was there to cut the grass Tuesday afternoon, and went in the house after her pocketbook," the spokesman said. "The likely scenario is she caught him and there was a struggle. She was hit on the head."

Mr. McDowell went to the Western District police station in the city around noon yesterday and "said he wanted to show them a body," Sergeant Doarnberger said. He led police officers to the home, on the city-county line, police said.

Several books and lamps were tipped over near Ms. Caldwell's body and may have been used in the attack, Sergeant Doarnberger said.

The tidy, well-kept lawns along Oak Avenue often are cared for by neighborhood handy men and grass cutters, neighbors said.

"This is a very fine, refined neighborhood, with good homemakers who take pride in their homes," said Elizabeth Gillespie, who has lived on Oak Avenue for 30 years.

"This is a terrible shock for us. Mrs. Caldwell was such a nice, wonderful person. She went to 8 a.m. Mass every Sunday at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Pikesville."

Police said Mr. McDowell did not do any work for Ms. Caldwell's neighbors.

He was being held last night without bond at the Garrison station. Police said it is unknown whether any money was taken from Ms. Caldwell's purse, which was found near her body.

Ms. Caldwell taught in city schools, retiring in the late 1970s, neighbors said. In the early 1980s, she was a volunteer teacher at St. Charles' school, teaching reading to children with special needs, said Sister Jane Frances, former principal.

Ms. Caldwell taught at the school, which closed in 1989, for about five years and was "like a grandmother to the children," Sister Frances said.

"She was a very good Catholic, very nice and understanding," Sister Frances said. "She taught for three hours every morning and she never took a penny from me for it. She did it all for free."

She said Ms. Caldwell had lived alone for years, but felt safe in her neighborhood.

"I remember I said to her, 'Isabelle, aren't you scared when you're alone?' " Sister Frances said. "She just said, 'No, I have nice neighbors, I'm not worried.' "

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