After Dorothy Langmead was herded into a vault in Randallstown bank and shot to death, her husband Michael didn't know how he was going to make it through the night. He stayed up until 2 a.m. talking to his sister at the kitchen table.
"Finally, I took the coat that Dottie wore to work that day into the bedroom and went to bed with it," he remembers.
Later, he says, "I didn't want to change the bedsheets. They had the smell of Dottie on them."
On Oct. 26, Mrs. Langmead and three other bank employees were shot as they lay helpless on the vault's floor. Two suspects have been charged with the crimes.
Two months after his wife's slaying, Mr. Langmead, 46, is still struggling to come to terms with his anguish. At times he is consumed by a quiet rage as he ponders the senselessness and brutality of the shootings. Then there are moments when his thoughts seem to go beyond the grave, and he speaks of Dottie, his "perfect wife" of 20 years, as if she is still among us.
Mr. Langmead frequently visits Cindy Ann Thomas, one of the two survivors of the robbery. The visits are a catharsis for his pain.
"Cindy and Dottie worked side-by-side every day. I can talk to her and feel I have a part of Dottie," he says.
There were 449 homicides in Maryland during the first nine months of this year -- a 15 percent increase over the 391 recorded during the same period a year ago. But the figures do not tell the whole story. Each homicide sends a ripple of grief into the households of the friends and relatives of the victims. The pain and anguish experienced by Mr. Langmead is being repeated hundreds of times annually as husbands, spouses, siblings and other relatives of murder victims try to fathom what happened.
As of yesterday, 42 people had been slain in Baltimore County -- a record -- and the body count in Baltimore was 331, also a record.
The grim litany of murders include Kaycynthia Maria Clark, raped and stabbed to death in her West Baltimore apartment; Christina Marie Brown, shot to death on a pathway between Owings Mills Mall and a nearby Metro station; and Pamela Basu, dragged to her death in a Howard County carjacking.
Homicides are occurring with such alarming frequency that press accounts of new murders often overshadow a seemingly never-ending string of murder trials. Somewhere in the cycle,the names of the victims are lost. Names like Jane Tyson, a grandmother killed in Westview Mall in 1991 in a $10 robbery, or Tiffany Smith, a 6-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet while playing near her West Baltimore home, also in 1991.
While the victims are separated by age, race and the circumstances of death, their survivors are united by a particular kind of anguish characterized by pain and rage. Murder has changed their lives in ways that are subtle and profound. Below, four such survivors share their feelings.
A total waste
Michael Langmead never thought his wife would be the victim a crime. In fact, he and his wife used to joke that the Farmers Bank branch where she worked was too small for anyone to bother robbing.
"For $5,300, they shot these people. That was a total waste," he says.
"Fif-ty-three-hun-dred dol-lars," he adds, drawing out the words. "You could hold that in one hand."
Noting his wife's aversion to violence, he says quietly, "What went through her mind as she lay on the floor of the vault -- that haunts me now. I just pray to God she was the first one shot."
He has given up night shift work at his job as a mechanic at a downtown food plant to spend more time with his two sons -- Mike, 19, and Mark, 16. The three are trying together to establish new daily routines that are themselves reminders of the woman they all loved.
"Going to the store -- we all hate going to the store. She went to the store every week," he says.
Everything, in its own way, is a reminder: the VCR in the living room the couple had won in a drawing at a crafts show two days before Mrs. Langmead was killed; the frisky part-Labrador, part-Springer Spaniel named Muffin they had picked up at the Humane Society six months before.
"There's no such thing as normal," Mr. Langmead says. "It's not normal to walk into this house anymore. If I had plenty of money, I would move away. I walk in here and see a picture. There are so many memories.
"Damn, I miss her."
The day Dorothy Langmead was slain, Aldona Pilius was seated in a second-floor courtroom in Baltimore's Clarence Mitchell courthouse. It was the halfway point in the trial of Dontay Carter, one of men who kidnapped her husband, Vitalis, from a downtown parking garage last February and bludgeoned him to death. The 4 1/2 -week trial was an ordeal for Aldona Pilius.
For her, "by far the most difficult day" of the trial was the day the crime scene was described, replete with photographs of her husband's bloodied body. But in an odd way she felt "fortified" by the experience. "I know if I could go through this, I could go through anything," she says.