Hopkins student's disappearance, other cases linked Suspect may have tried to trick female motorists

March 07, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Virginia State Police believe the man linked to the disappearance Saturday of a Johns Hopkins University graduate student has attempted to trick other female motorists into stopping along the same stretch of road during the past two months.

Alicia Showalter Reynolds, 25, was driving from Baltimore along U.S. 29 in northern Virginia Saturday morning to meet her mother, Sadie Showalter, in Charlottesville. The women had planned to shop for a dress for Mrs. Showalter to wear at the June wedding of Mrs. Reynolds' twin brother, Patrick.

Mrs. Reynolds, considered extremely punctual by her friends and family, did not show up, prompting the family to call Baltimore and Virginia police.

A credit card with her name was found on a side street in Culpeper, Va., and a state trooper came across her white 1993 Mercury Tracer at 6 p.m. Saturday on U.S. 29, two miles southwest of Culpeper.

Law enforcement officials said witnesses reported seeing a woman resembling Mrs. Reynolds' description receiving assistance from a man about 10 a.m. Saturday, at roughly the spot where her car was found.

Witnesses described the man as white and about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and said he was driving a small, dark blue or black pickup, police said.

Police said a man of a similar description is believed to have attempted to flag down many passing female motorists. The man told the women who did stop that there were sparks or flames coming from their cars and that he would drive them for help, police said. He has not been found or identified.

Police described Mrs. Reynolds as white, about 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing approximately 110 pounds, with blue eyes and shoulder-length brown hair. Anyone with information about her disappearance or whereabouts is encouraged to call police at (800) 572-2260 or (540) 829-7400.

Mrs. Reynolds, a doctoral candidate in pharmacology at the Hopkins School of Medicine, was described as a devout Mennonite whose love for the education she received at Goshen College in Indiana led her to aspire to become a college professor.

"She had some women that were influential in her life that were very good science professors, but she said there weren't enough women," said Amy Clemens, a pediatric cancer nurse at Hopkins Hospital who had befriended Mrs. Reynolds at Goshen. "She said she wanted to be a good role model for women in science."

At Hopkins, Mrs. Reynolds was trying to devise a vaccine to ward off schistosomiasis, a tropical parasitic disease afflicting 250 million people each year.

"She's just unreal -- she's just the most unselfish and professional" person, said Mette Strand, a Hopkins professor of pharmacology and molecular science who oversaw Mrs. Reynolds' work.

Mrs. Reynolds' husband, Mark Reynolds, is a first-year dentistry student at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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