Cecil County slayings shock quiet community

January 06, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers and Bruce Reid | Carol L. Bowers and Bruce Reid,Staff Writers

Within minutes Monday afternoon, shotgun blasts shattere Cecil County's hopes for another murder-free year.

On the springlike day, shots from a 12-gauge killed a mother and her 8-year-old daughter, bringing violence to a rural outpost that has been spared the bloodletting that plagues Baltimore and other more populous places.

In 1992, the county of about 70,000 had no murders.

But four days into the new year, at about 4:45 p.m., police found the bodies of 32-year-old Penny Jackson Hanby and her daughter, Deanna, inside a beige modular home on a sparsely wooded section of Firetower Road.

The woman's husband, Daniel Floyd Hanby, who also was shot once in the abdomen, is a suspect in the slayings, police said. Investigators said they believe that only Mr. Hanby, his wife and daughter were in the home at the time.

Mr. Hanby, an employee of Maryland Portable Concrete of Havre de Grace, was in critical but stable condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center yesterday.

The shock of the shootings, near the Susquehanna River town of Port Deposit, was compounded by the fact that a child had died violently.

Debbie Heintzen, Deanna's third-grade teacher at Bainbridge Elementary School, described her as a "quiet and sweet" child who could always be counted on to help other students having trouble with schoolwork.

"If I ever have a child, I would want her to be like Deanna; she was just so full of love and joy," Mrs. Heintzen said.

"She walked in every day with a big smile and a hug. She didn't even have to know you to hug you."

Yesterday, Mrs. Heintzen stood in front of 22 students and wept.

"I'm not afraid to let them see me cry," said Mrs. Heintzen. "It's just that right now, we don't know very much. I want answers, and I want to know why just as badly as they want to know."

As school officials, counselors and psychologists tried to help the school's 450 students cope with their grief yesterday, detectives continued piecing together the events that led to the shootings.

Major Haggerty said detectives are investigating reports that a domestic dispute triggered the shootings.

"We are pursuing that line of inquiry," Major Haggerty said. "They may have been separated or in the process of separating. He may have been living there on a temporary basis."

Mrs. Heintzen said the Hanbys were having marital problems.

"I knew there were problems because [Deanna's] momma came in and told me, so I'd be able to help Deanna if she had problems," Mrs. Heintzen said.

"If I had known, I would have taken them away or done something. I had no idea it was that bad."

Paul H. Kozloski, Port Deposit town administrator, said the couple's daughter appears to have paid "the ultimate price" if police are correct that it was a domestic dispute.

"It's unfortunate when a child becomes a pawn in a relationship," said Mr. Kozloski. "It really hits home when you realize how vulnerable a child of that age is."

Officers responding to the call for help found Mr. Hanby, bleeding from a wound in his abdomen as he left the house. Only two other homes are within walking distance.

Major Haggerty would not say how many times Mrs. Hanby or the daughter had been shot, or where the wounds were.

L Police believe Mr. Hanby dialed 911 to report the shootings.

Major Haggerty said Mrs. Hanby's body was found in the kitchen, her daughter's in the living room. An autopsy report was to be completed today.

All of the victims were apparently shot with a 12-gauge shotgun, police said. A 12-gauge shotgun was recovered at the scene, but police would not confirm it was used in the shootings.

The day of the Hanby shootings, a local newspaper, the Cecil Whig, ran a front-page story headlined, "A year without a murder."

Though the county typically has several homicides a year, police recorded none in 1992. Two murders occurred in 1991.

"Nobody in Cecil County lost their life this year, and that's a very fortunate occurrence," Major Haggerty told the Whig. "I hope it's the same next year."

"We're all just taking this one day at a time," said Brenda Cook, president of the parent-teacher association at Bainbridge Elementary. "People just don't think it's going to happen to anyone they know."

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