Police comb Guilford gardens for clues

August 16, 1994|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Peter Hermann, Howard Libit, Michael James and Frank P. L. Somerville contributed to this report.

An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun reported inaccurate information about the shooting death May 28 of Marvin B. Cooper. Mr. Cooper was fatally wounded in Guilford -- a short distance from his Oakenshawe residence.

The Sun regrets the errors.

An army of police academy recruits descended on scenic Sherwood Gardens yesterday to comb the flower beds for clues in the slayings of an elderly couple whose Guilford home overlooks the popular city park.

But the search yielded no clues in the deaths of Walter E. and Mary H. Loch, police said. And security was tight last night around the house, where homicide detectives, forensic experts and other investigators still were working.


The Lochs' bodies were discovered Sunday inside their three-story stucco and brick mansion in the 200 block of Stratford Road. Preliminary autopsy reports show Mr. Loch, 88, and his wife, 81, were beaten to death with a blunt object.

No weapon has been found and no time of death established, a police spokesman said. "We have no suspects," added Sgt. Steve Lehmann of the Homicide Unit.

The killer or killers forced their way in through a rear door, a police report said. The Lochs were found in a rear second-floor bedroom, where they were pronounced dead, the report said.

Investigators said the house wasn't ransacked and that nothing was obviously missing.

Residents and those who work in the Guilford area were angry and scared yesterday.

"This is getting out of hand," said Craig Alemi, a postal worker who has been delivering mail in Guilford for 16 years. Mr. Alemi said he knew the Lochs well, stopping regularly on his route to have coffee with the couple and to talk religion and politics.

"I'm shocked and disgusted at what has happened to these wonderful people who wouldn't harm a fly," he said. "The people that live around here are my family."

To generations of Marylanders and springtime visitors from other states, Guilford has been most famous for Sherwood Gardens, created in the 1930s behind the home of John W. Sherwood, a successful fuel oil dealer. Before his death, Mr. Sherwood donated the 6 1/2 landscaped acres to the Guilford Association, which now maintains them.

But crime has become a concern for residents.

More than two years ago, the neighborhood association hired a private security service to help reduce car thefts and burglaries. More than 300 homeowners now contribute $5 per week to pay for a guard to patrol the neighborhood at night and to contact police about anything suspicious.

Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, who represents the 2nd District, said yesterday he was both "heartsick and very, very angry" over the killings. Although property crimes such as car thefts and burglaries have decreased recently in the neighborhood, the city must "reinforce its commitment" to protecting it, he said.

"For every hundred crimes you decrease, a murder just wipes it all out in commmunity morale," he said.

The Lochs are the most recent victims of a spate of major crime in the North Baltimore area around Guilford, an 80-year-old community of 700 homes with an average value of more than $250,000. Family income in the area tops $92,000, three times the city's average.

On May 28, Marvin B. Cooper was fatally shot in an apparent robbery while walking in the 200 block of Chancery Road in the Oakenshawe neighborhood, just a block from his Guilford home. The 45-year-old lawyer had been returning home from a chess club meeting.

Just two weeks earlier, William H. McClain, 77, was assaulted and robbed outside his front door on Oakenshawe Place. The retired Johns Hopkins University professor of German hit his head in a fall during the robbery and died two days later.

And Guilford was one of the targets last fall of violent robbers who appeared to be preying on older, affluent residents -- although police said they haven't yet found any link to the Lochs' slayings.

On Sept. 7, 1993, three masked men broke into a Guilford home, tied up a couple and stole more than $50,000 in cash and jewelry. During the robbery, one man raped the 56-year-old woman as her 60-year-old husband was tied up. Police believe the incident was related to similar robberies in Roland Park, Pikesville, Potomac and Bethesda earlier last year.

Arrests have been made in the McClain death, but the Cooper killing and the attack by the masked men remain unsolved, police said. The masked robbers dropped out of sight last fall, but police are investigating whether they may have returned.

Yesterday, reactions of Guilford residents ranged from anger and fear to puzzlement over why the Lochs had not invested in a home security system.

"It's terrible, just terrible," said Bertrand Moreno, who said his home had been burglarized twice.

"It scared the hell out of me," said Joseph Mullan, who lives directly behind the Lochs. "Sure, I'm apprehensive; they couldn't get much closer, could they?"

Mr. Mullan, 72, already has a dog and an alarm system, as do many residents in this leafy neighborhood, where homes are masked by towering maple and chestnut trees and large old shrubs.

Guilford's streets were quiet yesterday. Despite the cool weather, few children were playing outside or riding bikes.

"I won't even let the children answer the door," said Marcie Shriver, a nanny for a family living opposite Sherwood Gardens. "They can play outside, but only if I'm with them. There's a difference between caution and paranoia."

One Guilford resident who won't budge is Margo Bates, a transplanted Minnesotan who chose yesterday to move her furniture into her home on Greenway, two blocks from the slayings. "I've got a dog, a security system and great neighbors, so I'm staying," said Ms. Bates, waving good-bye to the moving vans.

"I'd rather live in the city any day."

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