Essex man on the run after wife and 2 sons are slain Suspect speeds away after traffic stop by officer in city

July 31, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson and Dana Hedgpeth | Robert A. Erlandson and Dana Hedgpeth,Staff Writers Staff writers Glenn Small and Roger Twigg contributed to this article.

Baltimore area police hunted yesterday for a 26-year-old state Department of Corrections employee who fled from officers after his wife and two young sons were found stabbed to death in their Essex townhouse.

The suspect, Michael Antonio Reese, sped away from a Baltimore patrolman who had stopped him for running a red light at 9:45 a.m., an hour after Baltimore County police discovered the bodies of his wife, Rhonda, 24, and his sons Michael, 7, and Kenneth, 3.

Officers checked the Reese home in the first block of Spicewood Court at the request of Mr. Reese's mother, who said that her son had threatened to kill his family and himself, according to Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.

County police immediately issued a bulletin for Mr. Reese. Not long afterward, Officer Gregory Eames of the city Central District pulled Mr. Reese over for running a red light on North Avenue at Howard Street, police said. Two other men were in the car, a blue-green 1990 Beretta.

As the cars stopped and Officer Eames radioed for a routine check on the vehicle, he was told that the Beretta was wanted in the county homicide investigation.

He ordered the occupants out. They started to comply but jumped back in and drove off, police said.

Officer Eames jumped back into his car and sped off in pursuit, but the short, high speed chase ended in the 3400 block of Park Heights Avenue when the police cruiser collided with a car the suspect had just narrowly avoided.

A few minutes later, other officers discovered the Beretta abandoned about six blocks away in the 3900 block of Cottage Ave.

The doors were open and Mr. Reese's driver's license was on the seat, police said.

City officers searched the area without success. The identities of the other occupants of the car are not known.

County police spokesman E. Jay Miller said police went to the Reese home about 8:30 a.m. after the suspect's mother called to say that her son had threatened his family. When officers forced the front door, they found Mrs. Reese's body on the living room floor and the boys' bodies at the top of the stairs in a second-floor hallway.

He said Mrs. Reese and the boys, all wearing night clothes or underwear, had suffered multiple stab wounds, and the probable murder weapon -- a kitchen knife -- was found on the floor.

The television set was on, and police said they believe that the killings occurred during the night because much of the blood was dry when they entered, Mr. Miller said.

Police and neighbors said the couple had domestic problems. Police said that on Sept. 17 Mrs. Reese called at 5 a.m., complaining that her husband had assaulted and "pushed her up against a wall" when she confronted him after he had stayed out all night.

However, she declined medical treatment and refused to press assault charges.

Two months ago, Mr. Reese moved out of the house, although neighbors said he occasionally returned to watch the children.

The homicide shocked residents of the quiet Gateway Town Homes development, which is in a working-class area of similar low-rise apartments and townhouses populated by young families with children.

Neighbors described Mr. Reese and his wife as friendly people who spoke frequently to their neighbors as their youngsters played outside.

Michael Staten, who lives three doors from the murder scene, said that a few weeks ago, Mr. Reese told him he was having marital problems and was suffering from stress on his job in the commissary at the House of Corrections in Jessup.

"They had a good relationship and it was just something they were working out," Mr. Staten said. "We talked about trusting God and allowing things to work themselves out."

He said he spoke briefly with Mr. Reese about 6.30 p.m. Thursday. "Nothing gave me any idea that something like this would happen," Mr. Staten said, tears filling his eyes. "It's like a nightmare."

Neighbors described the Reese boys as polite, quiet children.

"The kids were always nice and friendly," said Leonard Morris, a nine-year resident of the community. "Michael would come and knock on the door and ask [Mr. Morris' daughter] Stephanie to play a lot. I just can't understand why anyone would hurt them."

Tiana Fowlkes, 17, who lives two doors from the murder scene, described Mrs. Reese, who baby-sat for local youngsters and worked part time for Sears, as "a real nice person" and her children as happy playmates.

Ms. Fowlkes said she saw Mr. and Mrs. Reese at their home about 10 p.m. Thursday when she borrowed cigarettes from Mrs. Reese.

"It is so tragic to think something like this happened to a family I've seen," said another neighbor, Alissa Smith, 25, wringing her hands.

"I am shocked and I don't know what I'm going to tell my kids, but I don't want them seeing stuff like this."

"You see stuff like this on the news all the time, but I never imagined it would happen so close to home," said Veronica Jones, 25, a mother of two who lives directly behind the Reeses.

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