A man who was found strangled in a Jessup motel room early Thursday has been identified as a 74-year-old self-employed Silver Spring accountant.
Howard County police said Shelton Woodrow Thigpen of the 8100 block of Piney Branch Road was identified by his wife yesterday afternoon. The woman, who last saw her husband Wednesday, noticed a police sketch in a local newspaper and contacted police.
Mr. Thigpen's identity was verified through military fingerprint records, said Howard County police spokesman Lt. Tim Branning.
Police said Mr. Thigpen checked into the Cedar Motel in the 8000 block of U.S. Route 1 after midnight Thursday and may have been killed between 2:30 a.m. and 4:45 a.m.
A motel manager responding to a commotion outside Room 105 saw a man drive off in the victim's car. Seeing the door ajar in Room 105, the manager investigated and discovered Mr. Thigpen's body lying on the floor.
Yesterday police released a composite sketch of the murder suspect, who is described a slender man of Hispanic descent in his 20s, standing 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a dark complexion, dark hair and eyes.
"We now have a good chance [of learning] where initial contact took place," said Lieutenant Branning. "It gives us a place to begin. Before, we didn't have that."
Detectives gathered the new information about the two men during interviews with the motel managers -- one of whom discovered Mr. Thigpen's body -- and from a clerk at a nearby Jessup retail store who saw the both of the men, who were speaking Spanish together, hours before the killing.
A camouflage hat similar to the one witnesses say was worn by the suspect was found on the motel room floor.
The new findings cast doubt on theories from Montgomery County police and other authorities that the Jessup slaying may have been linked to Gary Ray Bowles, a transient construction worker who has been charged with murder in Montgomery County and in Florida's Nassau County.
He also is being sought by the FBI, local and state authorities for questioning in the the strangulation deaths of four gay men in Maryland, Georgia and Florida.
Lieutenant Branning said Howard County detectives now will focus their efforts in Mr. Thigpen's Silver Spring community, which they say has a sizable Hispanic population.
After spending four days trying to identify Mr. Thigpen, who witnesses said was a frequent guest at the Jessup motel, police hope their investigation will move forward because detectives can now question friends and relatives about his activities.
Police haven't found Mr. Thigpen's white four-door 1990 Buick Park Avenue, which they believe was stolen by his killer. The vehicle, which had front fender damage, carried Maryland license tags XYB-296. The man was last seen driving north in a white car on U.S. Route 1.
Lieutenant Branning said detectives are unsure of the motive for the killing. There was no sign of a struggle at the murder scene, police said.
"We don't know whether the taking of the victim's wallet and car was a secondary thought or whether that was the intent the whole time," he said.
Anyone with information should call Howard County police at 313-2220 or 313-3200.