Perry Loch fatal stabbings remain unsolved by police Neighbors and relatives believe they know killer

ex-boyfriend is sought

November 28, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Gerald Duane Johnson and Devon Lancaster rented rooms in the same Northeast Baltimore house. They had jobs paying modest salaries and occasionally struggled to pay the rent. Beyond that, they had little in common.

But both died in a double stabbing almost two months ago that has left a Perring Loch neighborhood talking as investigators sort through a scenario that seems straightforward, but has bizarre twists.

Relatives of both victims think they know who did it. But the evidence raises some perplexing questions:

Why were both people killed? Why was one body hidden in a closet and the other in plain view on the floor? Who wrote the note taped to the front door directing residents to the basement? Who died first?

Also, Mr. Johnson's girlfriend may have visited the house while the killer was in the basement. She was upstairs in her boyfriend's room when she saw his car driven away the day police believe the slayings occurred.

The decomposed bodies were discovered five days later, Oct. 11, after neighbors complained of a stench. Ms. Lancaster's was found by relatives upon entering the house about 11 a.m.; three hours later, police found Mr. Johnson's body.

A day after the gruesome discovery, neighbors who had lived for years on the street of neatly kept houses and colorful gardens were convinced it wasn't a random attack.

But they were concerned that agents from the Internal Revenue Service -- Mr. Johnson's employer -- accompanied city police during their investigation, and they remembered that FBI agents had scoured the neighborhood in May with photos of a man wanted in connection with two slayings in New York City.

Investigators now want to question that man about the killings on Crestview Road. Police identified him as Jeffrey Monroe Wyche, 25.

Police say Mr. Wyche lived with Ms. Lancaster, 28, even after authorities passed his photo around. But what led to the slayings remains a mystery.

Detective Gerald Council, the lead homicide investigator on the case, would say only that Mr. Wyche is "strictly wanted for questioning." He has not been charged.

Police believe he was driving Mr. Johnson's white Chevrolet Cavalier when it crashed in New York City and a man fitting Mr. Wyche's description was seen running from the accident.

"It's kind of frustrating that for all the people involved, they still don't have this guy," said Charles Jones, 33, the victims' landlord. "I'd like to know why."

Ms. Lancaster, who worked in a cafeteria at the Johns Hopkins University, moved into the first floor of the rowhouse in the 2000 block of Crestview in December. A month later, her boyfriend, whom she identified as Nacquan Brown, moved in.

"He seemed like a regular guy," Mr. Jones said.

That changed in May, when police scoured the neighborhood with photographs of the man wanted in two New York slayings. The photos were of Mr. Brown, whose real name, neighbors then learned, was Jeffrey Wyche.

"I was surprised," Mr. Jones said. "I thought that this guy was so friendly and nice I was somewhat on his side."

But he called Ms. Lancaster at work and said her roommate had to move out. "She swore up and down that he was out of her life," he said.

Mr. Wyche left, but police and Ms. Lancaster's mother -- Rosaria Lancaster, 44, of East Baltimore -- suspect he secretly moved back a few months later.

The parents of a Morgan State University student living upstairs were upset and begged their son to move out. But he stayed until the end of June.

On July 5, Mr. Johnson, 35, moved in. He answered tax questions on the toll-free IRS hot line.

"He was a quiet guy," Mr. Jones said. "I didn't know him very well."

Oct. 6 was a normal day for Mr. Johnson's 28-year-old girlfriend, who lives outside of Baltimore. The woman, who did not want to be named, used a duplicate key to enter her boyfriend's $H apartment about 9 p.m.

Mr. Johnson wasn't there, but his car was parked out front. About 10:45 p.m., she heard a car door slam and saw the car leave. She left the house.

Over the next several days, neighbors complained of a strong stench. It wasn't until Oct. 11 that Ms. Lancaster's relatives discovered her body about 10:45 a.m.

Three hours later, police searching the basement discovered Mr. Johnson's body stuffed in a narrow closet. Both had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest.

Mr. Jones said police asked him to help identify the dead man in the basement. He said a towel was wrapped around Mr. Johnson's head. Also in the room was a blood-stained mattress and evidence of a struggle.

The only leads at the time were Mr. Wyche, and Mr. Johnson's missing car. Mr. Jones said he later found -- and turned over to police -- a note from Mr. Johnson's room that asked whoever arrived home first to come downstairs.

Mr. Jones said he also gave detectives telephone records showing more than $530 worth of telephone calls to five numbers in New York City, including three calls totaling nearly 100 minutes made on the day police believe the killings occurred.

Detective Council would not comment on the evidence, and said the motive for the slayings was robbery: Mr. Johnson's car.

Ms. Lancaster's mother said police told her Mr. Johnson was killed first, and then her daughter was slain after she discovered the body. The elder Ms. Lancaster only hopes that Mr. Wyche can shed some light on the case. "I hope they do something about trying to find him," she said.

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