A 9-year-old New York City girl who came to Baltimore to visit her sister was found slain yesterday in a trash bin outside the George B. Murphy Homes housing project, homicide detectives said.
Police found the girl -- reported missing Wednesday afternoon -- during a routine search of trash bins around the high-rise project at 1 p.m., said Sgt. Robert Dean, head of the missing persons unit.
Investigators would not say how Ebony Scott was killed. She is the second murder victim in as many weeks in the project, where security guards were removed by city officials last year because they had no effect on the crime.
No suspects were arrested last night, but police said they received information from the project's residents that a strange man recently had been seen hanging around children in the building.
Four children age 15 or younger have been slain in Baltimore this year, none at Murphy Homes; at least 22 children have suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds.
Ebony was last seen playing with other children before noon Wednesday, police said. Her sister, who lives there, became concerned and reported the child missing to police at 5:16 p.m.
"The next day, our missing persons people went there to canvas the neighborhood, as is routine," said Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman. The body was found in one of three trash bins in front of the building in the 900 block of Argyle Ave., he said.
Neighbors who know the victim's sister said Ebony had made friends with other children at Murphy Homes and often played in the hallways and parking lot.
"Lots of people get shot around here, but this is the first time I can remember a kid getting killed," said Tionne Barlow, 15, who lives next door to the victim's sister. "I'm surprised it doesn't happen, though. A lot of kids wander around and they don't give us any security."
Murphy Homes has been the site of numerous shootings and killings, the most recent just two weeks ago when a 34-year-old man was shot several times in a drug-related robbery on a second-floor stairwell.
"This is a case where someone took advantage of a child. . . . This should tell people that we really need protection here," Lawonne Hughes, 22, said, with a baby in her arms. "Maybe a security booth would have seen this little girl and saved her."
Ms. Hughes and other residents said they had heard of a stranger in the complex who "has been chasing children around, trying to get them to go outside." Investigators said they are checking out that lead.
Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the city Housing Authority, which runs the project, said they used to employ security guards but "we removed them in 1991, basically because we found out they weren't working."
The guard would sit behind bulletproof glass designed to stop a .38-caliber bullet. But the windows were punctured by bullets on a few occasions by drug dealers toting higher-caliber weapons, Mr. Toohey said.
"They were unarmed. They were no match for drug traffickers armed with automatic weapons and .38s," Mr. Toohey said. "Plus, we found on a few occasions they had been bought off" by drug dealers.
The city has tried to step up Housing Authority police patrols and has attempted to evict known drug traffickers from Murphy Homes, Mr. Toohey said. But federal funds, which the authority depends on for half its budget, is not available for guards, he said.
Johnny M. Jones, 39, who was visiting after moving out of Murphy Homes after eight years, said police "are afraid to come in, and I don't even blame them. This is the baddest place around."