Mall posts $5,000 reward witness to slaying sought

September 29, 1992|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County police continued searching for leads into the robbery-murder of Christina Marie Brown yesterday and hoped a $5,000 reward posted by Owings Mills Mall would induce a witness to come forward.

Ms. Brown, 28, who worked for a cleaning company contracted by the mall's Saks Fifth Avenue store, was shot and robbed Friday on a winding footpath leading to the Metro station near the mall.

Yesterday, police returned to the mall and questioned employees of various stores, hoping to find witnesses to the crime, or anyone who might have seen something suspicious.

Over the weekend, police circulated a composite sketch of a black man in his 20s who was seen in the area and may have seen the murder. The man has not been identified, said E. Jay Miller, police spokesman.

An autopsy showed that Ms. Brown, who lived in the 6600 block of Parr Ave., near the Reisterstown Road Shopping Plaza, had been shot at least once in the head. Police said her purse had been stolen.

The asphalt-paved path beside which Ms. Brown's body was found runs along an unused auxiliary parking lot for the mall, then winds down between vegetation-covered knolls onto the most distant -- and little-used -- section of the Metro station parking lot.

The path is invisible from the station. The spot where Ms. Brown's body was found cannot be seen either from the station or from the top of the path itself.

According to people familiar with the area, there is little pedestrian traffic on the path, except during the morning and evening rush hours. Ms. Brown's body was found at 2:18 p.m. Friday.

Mall security trucks regularly drive through the parking lot, according to one of the guards, who declined to be identified. However, the murder scene cannot be seen from the parking lot, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence.

Gerhard and Gisela Hanke, German tourists shopping at Owings Mills for "special jeans" for their daughter, took the path up and back yesterday, not knowing they had strolled through the middle of a murder scene. When they learned of the young woman's death, Mr. Hanke observed, "It is lonely. There are not a lot of people about."

People at the Metro station know of the path and have mentioned it to those who did not want to wait for the shuttle bus to the mall.

"But I wouldn't walk that path. I don't walk in isolated places," said Emma Roberts, who works in the control booth at the Metro station and was on duty Friday afternoon when a man rushed in to tell her he had seen a woman's body beside the path.

"He said: 'She's not breathing.' I called our [Mass Transit Administration] police. Someone else called the county police," Ms. Roberts said. "I couldn't believe someone had killed someone there on the path. I thought she might have been dumped there."

Carolyn Savage of Randallstown said she uses the Metro station daily but never uses the path.

"I wouldn't walk up there alone," she said. "You're very isolated, and it doesn't seem like a safe thing to do."

Donna Tober of Finksburg also uses the Metro station every day and was concerned that a robbery-murder occurred so nearby.

"I've never walked the path, but a lot of people do cut through that path," she said.

"I see broken glass and empty beer bottles on the parking lot in the morning, so people are around at night," Ms. Tober said.

Ms. Tober said the MTA should post more signs informing the public about the shuttle-bus service between the station and the mall.

"See, there are no signs out here that there is a bus on the other side," she said.

Police are interviewing Ms. Brown's friends and family, "trying to get every bit of information we can about her life and her habits, anything," Mr. Miller said.

The young woman worked for International Service System, a New York-based contract-cleaning company employed by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Michael Jansen, assistant general manager for the Saks at Owings Mills, said Ms. Brown had worked in the store for about two months and was "a very pleasant and hard-working young woman."

In addition to the $5,000 reward posted by the Rouse Co. subsidiary that owns the mall, the mall merchants and Saks, Mr. Jansen said Saks has contributed $1,000 to a trust Ms. Brown's family is setting up in her name.

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