Violence crosses a new boundary in fear and anger


March 20, 1993|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer Staff writers Rafael Alvarez, Jacques Kelly and Eric Siegel contributed to this article.

Near the convent in which Sister MaryAnn Glinka was murdered yesterday, Tony Egger sometimes hears gunfire. He listens as schoolchildren passing by his Parkwyrth Avenue home talk about "violence or sex or beating up on somebody."

"Sometimes," Mr. Egger said, "I think we live in the last days of the earth."

Even in a city that's become numb to the homicides reported daily, no one could ignore the brutal killing of a nun in a convent on a quiet, snowy slope. A new boundary had been crossed. Sister MaryAnn's murder left Baltimoreans fearful and angry and disgusted with the violence they live with.

"This is about as bad as it gets," said 6th District City Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi.

"Unfortunately, it underscores our fears that no one is safe," said Rob Rehg, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who has become accustomed to discussing crime, stood outside the iron gates of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore to talk about violence of a new dimension and its effect on the spirit of the city.

A reporter asked how this crime would affect efforts to move Baltimore forward.

"We lose a little each time someone is victimized," the mayor said. "Certain crimes carry with them very heavy symbolism.

"The concern I have as mayor is I know there are so many good things about the city," Mr. Schmoke said, with police cars parked in the convent driveway. "I also know the profound symbolism that is conveyed when a crime like this occurs. I recognize the damage that is done in terms of the image of the city."

"It just leaves you completely disheartened," Mr. DiBlasi said. "And you wonder when it will end."

Baltimore recorded 335 homicides last year -- a record. So far this year, there have been 70 murders. Wednesday, 74-year-old Jeromia B. O'Neal was found beaten to death in her Caroline Street home. Yesterday, the city heard about Sister MaryAnn.

"I think the combination of Mrs. O'Neal's death the other night and Sister MaryAnn has stopped the city in its tracks," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who also visited the convent yesterday to pray with the nuns. "It's so shocking you've got to believe it touches people who have never been touched before."

As word spread throughout the Ednor Gardens-Waverly community, startled residents reacted with fear. Some shut doors when a reporter rang the bells.

"Those ladies don't bother anybody," said A. D. Robinson, whose home faces the convent's front gates in the 3700 block of Ellerslie Ave. "Most people own their own houses here. About the only thing that has happened recently is some guy's been knocking on doors and saying that he's been let out of a mental institution."

"Absolutely nothing is sacred today," said James Delaro, a Royal cab driver who attended spaghetti dinners at the St. Elizabeth's School for the handicapped on Argonne Drive, which is run by the Franciscan sisters.

Ed Rybczynski was helping celebrate a grandchild's birthday at an East Baltimore day care center yesterday when a nun brought the news. For Mr. Rybczynski, it was fresh evidence of a crime problem that's out of control.

"It points up that there is nothing outside the realm of the criminal mind anymore," said Mr. Rybczynski, an attorney whose family has lived near Patterson Park for three generations. "They have no regard for anyone, including the religious, the elderly, the very young. All are victims today."

Crime is only one urban failure, Mr. Rybczynski added. The city can't keep streets or parks clean, he said. Slumlords aren't regulated. Gun control doesn't exist. The number of homeless grows.

"We have allowed one thing to happen at a time and now we're seeing the culmination of all those things we let happen over the last 25 years," he said. "Now we're surrounded by crime, filth: in print, on the screen, in the street.

"Nothing is safe. Nothing is sacred any longer."

"There was a time when this sort of thing was absolutely unthinkable," said councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th. "There is a climate of chaos and wanton violence that exists now. And now things that once were unthinkable can actually occur."

To control the violence, Mr. Bell said, "We need to start cracking some heads. We need to do everything within the boundary of the law to crack some heads. We have to put fear in those who would consider perpetrating acts of violence."

Others, however, wanted a different approach:

"It's time for us to come together and say we've hit bottom and we've got to come back up together," said Council President Clarke.

And Gussie Tweedy, past president of the Pen Lucy Association, near the convent, said that the city should not be blamed for the crime.

"I don't know what to do," Mrs. Tweedy said. "It just seems to me that people have to change how they feel about themselves. They have to have respect for themselves, or everybody gets disheartened.

"I don't give up on the city," Mrs. Tweedy said. "What we need to be about is not trashing the city, because the city is not the problem. It's people who are having difficulties."

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