4 months later, city man's death still a mystery Foul play suspected

$5,000 reward offered

January 19, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The day before Jerry Paul Gibbs was to marry his high school sweetheart, his friends and family members gathered instead at an Arbutus cemetery to bury him.

Four months later, his loved ones -- and Baltimore County police -- remain puzzled about how and why the 27-year-old ended up dead Sept. 10 on an embankment off Seminary Avenue near Mays Chapel Road in Lutherville.

Even the cause of death remains a mystery. Police have labeled it "suspicious" and still are investigating, and Metro Crime Stoppers and Mr. Gibbs' family are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment.

"For all intents and purposes, Jerry Gibbs was a hard-working guy who was making a good living and about to get married, and for some reason or another he ended up dead," said Detective Philip Marll, who is working the case with partner Detective James Tincher. "This is a case where we've done as much as we can possibly do and we've still got absolutely nothing on it.

"In my 9 1/2 years of investigating homicides, I've never had a case like this one," Detective Marll said. "We've got a top-notch ,, medical examiner's office and my partner and I even sat in on the autopsy, but we still couldn't find out what happened to him."

Mr. Gibbs' body had no stab wound or bullet wound, no sign of strangulation or suffocation. No alcohol or drugs were in his system. No evidence of a heart attack or stroke was found.

Except for scratches on his body and a small bruise on his head -- a bump that could hardly cause death, police say -- no sign of trauma was detected.

Missing were Mr. Gibbs' tennis shoes, glasses and beeper. His car, a 1977 brown Ford Granada with temporary tags, was found parked a day later at Fairview Avenue and Edgewood Road, three blocks from his Baltimore home on West Forest Park Avenue.

Detectives and relatives said they are convinced foul play was involved.

"He was a good boy who didn't have no enemies," Francine H. Jackson, a machine operator at an Owings Mills manufacturing company, said of the son she raised alone.

"I just don't know who would want to hurt him. He was doing so well with his life, and someone cut him down," she said.

He was arrested in the late 1980s, his mother said, when he was in the company of someone carrying cocaine, resulting in six months' of probation. She said he stayed clear of trouble after that. Police say there is no evidence to the contrary.

Instead, the Northwestern High School graduate focused on supporting his family -- his girlfriend and their two children -- as well as a child from another relationship. He was an office furniture installer for a Baltimore business for almost 10 years, his mother said.

His last-known movements have been of little help in solving the mystery, detectives say. On the morning of Sept. 9, Mr. Gibbs ran errands and got a haircut for the wedding planned for Sept. 16.

That evening, while in the kitchen with friends and fiancee, Valecia C. Bagley, Mr. Gibbs received a call from his aunt who asked him to pick her up from work in Towson around midnight. He agreed, but never got there.

His last words to his fiancee were, "I'll be right back," Ms. Bagley said, adding that she never saw him alive again.

Mr. Gibbs left their home about 10:30 p.m., stopped briefly at the home of his mother in the 5300 block of Peerless Ave. to leave her a check, made a telephone call to someone never identified about 11 p.m. and left, according to an aunt who was there at the time.

Then he was gone.

"He seems to just drop off the face of the earth," Detective Marll said. "Did he go back to his old neighborhood since that's where his car was found? Did he meet up with someone after leaving his mom's house? Was he carjacked? Did the person he talked to on the telephone have anything to do with his death?

"We just don't know. But it's a case we can't let go of because of the family. Jerry Gibbs was his mother's only child," he said.

"The only thing keeping me going sometimes is the hope that someone out there will call or come forward to help the police solve this case," Ms. Jackson said. "I just can't take not knowing."

Anyone with information is asked to call the police at 887-2198 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 276-8888.

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