Neighbors try to cope with killings Residents of S. Charles St. communities seek solutions after third slaying of year CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

August 09, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Stunned by three slayings in their Westminster neighborhoods since the beginning of the year, residents of Charles Street and Bishop's Garth apartments are looking for ways to make their neighborhoods safer.

The bodies of Cathryn B. Farrar, 39, and George W. "Billy" Wahl, 35, were found Aug. 2 in Ms. Farrar's apartment in Bishop's Garth. Police charged Ms. Farrar's son, Jason A. DeLong, 18, and Sara E. Citroni, 17, of Reisterstown with murder in the fatal stabbings.

In January, Gregory L. Howard, 22, of the Westminster area, was shot to death on South Center Street. Samuel A. Miller, Daniel J. Leonard and Timothy Cumberland, all of Reisterstown, were charged with murder.

Tenants at Bishop's Garth, a complex of about 35 subsidized apartments at the south end of Charles Street, have begun talking about starting a neighborhood crime watch program. Although the killings of Ms. Farrar and Mr. Wahl appear to be family related, neighbors are worried about illegal drugs they say are sold in one building.

Karen Billings, a tenant and mother of four, said she understands that it's up to people like her.

"I'm here. I'm stuck here. I've got to make it safe for my children," she said.

Farther north on Charles Street, homeowner William F. Dixon said his efforts to start a neighborhood association have been disappointing, despite community concerns about drugs.

During a private session with community representatives after Mr. Howard's death, Mayor W. Benjamin Brown discussed holding a community meeting. But that meeting never took place.

"I guess we never got together and got back with the mayor on that," said the Rev. James Hinton, pastor of Union Memorial Baptist Church, who attended the session with the mayor.

Several Charles Street residents said they would be interested in discussing their concerns about crime with city officials. They described children going to the corner of Charles and South Center streets to buy drugs and said fistfights are common in the neighborhood.

R. Leroy Sheeler said he worries about his young son. "We should have more police officers patrolling this area," he said. He said calls to city police sometimes go unanswered for as long as two hours.

Nathan Frisby said he thinks Westminster police seem to be responsive. "When something goes down, they're usually right there," he said.

Some killings can't be prevented by police, Mr. Frisby said. He would like to see people work together with the police "to run the drug dealers out of here."

Charles Quivers, 74, also would like a community meeting to confront the drug issue. "When we first built this house [in 1979], we didn't even lock the door, but now we have to lock it," he said.

In Bishop's Garth, tenant Barbara Abel said residents plan to ask the management for security services. The fact that apparently no one heard screams from Ms. Farrar or Mr. Wahl worries her.

"Suppose someone came in here and did bodily harm to us, would anyone hear our cries?" she asked. She said that although the double slaying appeared to be a domestic situation, tenants are now worried about strangers they see around the apartments.

Bishop's Garth residents got help dealing with the trauma of the crime from the mental health bureau of the Carroll County Health Department.

Two counselors met with residents Friday afternoon for counseling. Mental Health Director Howard Held said the counselors talked with residents about their feelings and explained that symptoms such as dreams or nightmares about the deaths are normal.

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