About 200 people attended a meeting at Hammond Elementary School Tuesday night to learn about the status of the Pamela Basu murder investigation and question police and elected officials about the steps they are taking to prevent similar crimes.
The gathering was the second community gathering in a week to address the death of Savage resident Dr. Basu in a carjacking last Tuesday.
A meeting at Forest Ridge Elementary School the day after the slaying attracted about 400 residents.
State legislators, representatives from the county police department and county prosecutors were among those present to answer questions at the meeting.
Most questions focused on the issue of whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the two men charged with murder in Dr. Basu's slaying.
Howard County State's Attorney William Hymes said he will not make a decision on the death penalty until prosecutors have had a chance to review the entire case investigation.
"In every case where the circumstances have called for the death penalty, I have asked for the death penalty," Mr. Hymes said, noting that in each case the jury has failed to impose the maximum sentence.
One woman at the meeting told Mr. Hymes that residents of the Bolling Brook neighborhood where Dr. Basu lived had circulated a petition urging prosecutors to seek the death penalty and had obtained 400 signatures.
She wanted to know what the community could do to make sure the two suspects get the death penalty if convicted.
"Talk to everyone you know and tell them how you feel about it," Mr. Hymes suggested.
Another woman present asked if the death penalty law could be changed so that the 16-year-old suspect in the Basu murder is eligible for the death penalty.
Under the statute, those under 18 cannot receive the death penalty.
Maj. Mark Paterni of the county police department addressed the absence of a school crossing guard at Forest Ridge Elementary School on the morning of the carjacking.
He said that an internal police investigation revealed that one of the two watch commanders on duty that morning had failed to assign a guard to the school.
The officer who was patrolling the Bolling Brook area was assigned to the Bollman Bridge Elementary School when the crossing guard there called in sick.
Sen. Thomas Yeager (D-Fullton) and Del. Marty Madden (R-Clarksville) assured the residents that construction on the higher security fences near the northbound I-95 rest stop will probably begin within a month.
Residents called for tighter security after police said that that Dr. Basu's attackers apparently entered the neighborhood from woods behind the rest stop.
The legislators also said they'll be following closely any proposed legislation on carjacking in the upcoming General Assembly session.