A generous man brutally robbed of his very life


October 03, 1992|By DAN RODRICKS

Last week, Andy Dorsch died a violent death in his storefront office on Fleet Street in Fells Point. He was stabbed several times, in his chest and in his back, and the autopsy showed defensive wounds on his arms and wrists. The murder is unsolved.

His friends think, and police have suggested, that Dorsch knew the person who killed him.

But why would anyone Andy Dorsch trusted enough to let into his novelty store after hours, after the blinds on the front window had been lowered, want to kill him -- and in such a furious manner?

It was well-known that Dorsch often carried a lot of cash. That was how he did things, and part of the nature of his business.

Dorsch's company, State Sales, rented casino wheels, bingo set-ups, raffle barrels, carnival supplies, even dunking booths and whiskey fountains to hundreds of organizations and charities. His was the name on dozens of bingo permits issued by the city.

But more than that, Dorsch was known for generosity. He was a landlord who would loan people money in a pinch. He'd give a tenant a job if he had trouble making the rent. The week before he died, he gave a guy $50 for his gas and electric bill. His generosity was widely known in East Baltimore.

That's why Debbie Carfrey, the daughter of Dorsch's longtime companion, Jane Kane, and his first assistant in State Sales, is baffled that anyone would kill her stepfather over money.

"You didn't have to kill Andy to get money from him," Ms. Carfrey says. And that includes some of Baltimore's most desperate people, many of whom crossed Dorsch's threshold over the years.

Carfrey spoke to Dorsch by telephone late on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 21. Everything was fine, he told her. That night, Dorsch planned to attend a $100-per-person testimonial for Michael Sacco, a national maritime labor leader who was being honored by the Baltimore Port Council at Martin's Eastwind. Andy Dorsch bought 10 tickets. He never got to the party.

An employeee found his body at States Sales the next morning.

No evidence of forced entry was found, nor had the store been ransacked. Dorsch's pockets had been emptied -- Mrs. Kane says he always carried cash in his pockets, not in a wallet -- but diamond rings were still on two of his fingers. A watch was still on his wrist.

"A crime of rage," it has been called by more than one person familiar with the crime scene and medical examiner's report.

Is it possible that one of Andy Dorsch's little financial deals got him in trouble? Possible, those close to him say. But not likely.

Andy Dorsch didn't have enemies, just a lot of people beholden to him. He was giving and trusting to a fault.

There's a reason Andy Dorsch was so generous. The story goes back many years; his good friend and American Legion buddy, Harry Beaudet, thinks it was in the late 1950s, when Dorsch had a growing real estate business. He had 47 rental properties and a Formstone siding concern. And an old truck.

One day, an employee drove off in the truck and, somewhere down the road, he struck and killed a pregnant woman. In a civil action, Dorsch was held responsible, and the damages award wiped him out. He lost everything he owned. His marriage fell apart.

"And he went on a terrible drunk," Harry Beaudet says.

This isn't just another Andy Dorsch story Beaudet tells. It's part of the Andy Dorsch Legend.

"He gave to everybody because he knew what it was to be down from that time in his life when he lost everything," says Carfrey. A lot of people were indebted to Andy Dorsch. Carfrey says her stepfather held notes on about $200,000 worth of small loans -- all of them signed and payable on demand, and packed away in a desk. That's part of the legend, too. "And if you owed Andy money and you passed him down the street, he wouldn't say a word to you about it," Carfrey says.

Now Andy Dorsch is gone. Debbie Carfrey is running the business. She knows some of the people who got loans from Dorsch will feel they're off the hook for good. Some people. Not all people.

The guy who got $50 for his gas and electric bill walked into State Sales yesterday morning and settled up.

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