Murder hits home

January 14, 1994|By Marilyn McCraven

OF Baltimore's 354 homicides in 1993, one stands out for me. It is last month's murder of real-estate agent Lynne McCoy. It's indelibly etched in my mind in a way the others couldn't be because it happened in my neighborhood.

The murder, just four days before Christmas, cast a pall over my West Baltimore neighborhood of Hunting Ridge as nothing else has in my seven years there. Police say the alleged killer posed as a prospective home buyer before snuffing out her life in a house she had shown him. The suspect was captured within days of the crime, but that has been of little solace to those I've talked with.

At holiday celebrations, neighbors discussed it. Such dark topics against the background of carols and Christmas cookies seemed out of place.

While children sledded down a neighborhood alley, a parent raised the topic and pulled the strings of her parka hood tighter, as if to ward off a chill.

My next-door neighbor mentioned it when he called to make sure my 5-year-old, who had left his house just minutes before, had arrived safely home.

People who might have walked to Christmas Eve services a year ago instead drove. They might have blamed the chilly weather, but one couldn't help but feel it was the chill in the pit of their stomachs that other intruders to our neighborhood might be lurking in the dark.

With Baltimore averaging nearly a murder a day in 1993 -- Lynn McCoy was the 341st -- the city is no stranger to crime. However, we who live in neighborhoods where such terrible crimes are virtually unheard of are left shaken and feeling unusually vulnerable when it happens in our own backyards. This crime hit home so powerfully in our neighborhood because the victim had a well-known name and face. We see her grieving family, friends and co-workers. It's not just a statistic.

Working in the newspaper business, I find it's easy to become oblivious to the statistics. Reporters interview the police, the victims' families, friends; they record the tally and note when it nears the year-ago total or breaks a record. After a while, it all blends together. Was that the man who was shot on North Avenue or the one stabbed on Whitelock Street? We struggle to make sense of the societal breakdown that has spawned such violence. Then we move on.

However, when it happens in my neighborhood, on my street -- as the McCoy murder did -- there's no forgetting. We'll always remember the stately house, inhabited by a sweet elderly couple, that hosted a ghastly murder.

One currently popular religious scholar says we're put on Earth to learn -- both from mistakes and triumphs. What I've learned from this one tragedy is that collectively those 354 murders of 1993 have caused more hurt in the city than can be imagined.

Marilyn McCraven is a sports copy editor at The Baltimore Sun.

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