Sixth-grader finds dead woman in school stairwell

March 16, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

A sixth-grade Lombard Middle School student chasing a football during gym class yesterday discovered the body of a woman lying at the bottom of a recessed stairwell on the side of the school, and police were investigating the death as a homicide.

Detectives who scoured the scene -- an alley running beside the school between Pratt and Lombard streets and a fenced-off play area -- have not identified the woman. They said several youngsters saw the woman's body.

"They were upset," said Donna Franks, a spokeswoman for the school system. "School is supposed to be a safe place, and when these sorts of things happen at a school, it threatens their security."

In an unrelated homicide yesterday, police said Gina Ramson, 12, of the 400 block of N. Montford Ave., was found strangled to death under the 900 block of Edison Highway. Her body was lying on a concrete slab connecting two bridge abutments near Frank C. Bocek Park.

Shortly afterwards, police interviewed her boyfriend, Tavon Delshawn Fields, 15, of the 2900 block of E. Monument St., and late last night charged him as an adult with first-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon. He was being held at the Eastern District lockup, pending a bail hearing before a District Court commissioner.

The discovery at Lombard Middle is the third time this school year that a body has been found on school property. Last month, a 32-year-old man was found shot to death on a playground behind Belmont Elementary School in West Baltimore.

In January, a 22-year-old man was killed and a 21-year-old man wounded at Northern High School during a gang shootout.

Yesterday, counselors from a crisis team were called to Lombard Middle in the 1600 block of E. Lombard St. to help the 820 students deal with the incident and the large police presence that followed.

All outside activities, such as gym and recess, were canceled as homicide detectives remained at the school throughout the day collecting evidence.

Detectives searched the large, paved play area, climbed to the roof of the school and searched a nearby alley and a gravel lot next to a day care center.

Police and school officials said the boy found the body when he chased a football that had rolled down a staircase.

Officer Sabrina V. Tapp-Harper, a police spokeswoman, said the body was a woman in her mid- to late 20s.

She was found face up at the bottom of the stairs, covered with trash and debris.

Police said they could not immediately determine the cause of death, but were treating the case as an apparent homicide.

Neighborhood residents said the school lot is frequented by prostitutes, who can easily gain access by lifting the bottom of the fence that runs along East Pratt Street.

By midmorning, detectives had shifted their attention from the area where the body was found to the 200 block of Bethel Court, the narrow street between Pratt and Lombard, near a fenced-in play area for the Vera Shank Child Care Center.

A center volunteer found several photographs lying in a small gravel lot just outside the play area, and pointed them out to detectives.

Lt. Wendell France of the homicide unit said eight or nine photographs were found in a pile. He said the photos were of a white female taken in a familial setting. Detectives could not say whether the photographs were of the dead woman or were connected to the case.

"We are just finding things that are a little out of the ordinary . . . " Lieutenant France said. "There are scattered pieces of evidence all around."

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