Executive and wife are slain

May 17, 1994|By Michael James and Gregory P. Kane | Michael James and Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Kris Antonelli contributed to this article.

A vice president of the largest philanthropic foundation in the country and his wife were found fatally shot yesterday in a house in the affluent community of Winchester on the Severn, county police said.

Jose Enrique Trias, 49, an executive and general counsel for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and his wife, Julie Noel Gilbert, 48, a Bethesda attorney, were found just after noon in a house in the 1600 block of Winchester Road, said Officer Randy Bell, police spokesman.

The victims appeared to have been dead for 48 hours. They were found by a worker who had come to the house near Annapolis to do some repairs, Officer Bell said.

Detectives were unclear why the two had been killed and said they were looking at robbery as a motive. The couple's maroon 1992 four-door Acura Legend, with Maryland tags ZLS 655, was missing from the driveway, police said.

"The house was mildly disturbed, not necessarily ransacked," said Officer Bell. "We don't really know what, if anything, is missing."

Police said the couple lived in the 5300 block of Duvall Drive in Bethesda but occasionally stayed at the Winchester Road home.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is the biggest private PTC philanthropy in the United States. With $7 billion in assets, it is second only to the National Institutes of Health -- the federal government -- as a sponsor of basic medical research.

Over the past several years, it has spent fortunes putting up buildings, fitting out labs and hiring some of the brightest people in U.S. science.

Yesterday, the worker used a key to get in when no one answered the doorbell at their home, Officer Bell said. The worker tripped the residential panic alarm at 12:06 p.m., alerting police.

He ran down the winding driveway leading to Winchester Road and flagged down a passing motorist, Officer Bell said.

Neighbors in the community of large houses on 1-acre lots, many of which run to the Severn River, were reluctant to talk about the couple.

Martin Needleman, who lives a few doors away on Winchester Road, said Julie Noel Gilbert moved into the house in 1987 but stayed there only on weekends. They apparently did extensive remodeling, but "there wasn't somebody there seven days a week," he said.

Any neighbors hearing gunshots "wouldn't think anything of it," he said, because "people go back there and target shoot all the time."

Dr. John Rizzi, who lives on Father Urban Lane, said the Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Trias "were very private people and kept to themselves."

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