Four people arrested in a drowning 18 years ago Three men are charged with 1st-degree murder, a woman as accessory

March 14, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Elaine Tassy contributed to this report.

Baltimore County police announced four arrests on murder charges yesterday in the death of Mark Stephen Schwandtner 18 years after the young Towson man was beaten and allegedly thrown from a railroad bridge into the Big Gunpowder River.

The police and a prosecutor handling the case would not give details about how the suspects were identified after nearly two decades, beyond saying investigators had received an anonymous tip that led to the arrests.

Police said Mr. Schwandtner, a 22-year-old construction worker, was beaten and thrown from the bridge June 10, 1978, after an argument with several men at a nearby tavern. His body was found in the river the next day, and an autopsy determined he drowned.

"The investigation in 1978 by the Police Department and state's attorney's office really ran into a dead end," said James O'C. Gentry Jr., an assistant prosecutor, adding that homicide detectives "ran out of leads. There was nothing else for them to do."

But he noted that all unsolved murder cases remain open, and new evidence surfaced recently leading this month to indictments by a county grand jury of the four suspects one from Georgia, the others from Baltimore. They were identified as:

Ronnie Gary Rodgers, 47, of Glenville, Ga., who surrendered to county police Tuesday night and was charged with first-degree murder. He was released yesterday on $25,000 bail.

William Raymond Issacs, 43, of the 6400 block of Bushey St. and John Stanley Derry, 42, of the 1300 block of W. 42nd St., who were arrested Friday and charged with first-degree murder. They also were freed on bail, but authorities were unable to state the amount.

Susan Diane Thompson, 45, of the 700 block of Bay St., charged as an accessory after the fact. Her bail also was unavailable.

The arrests and release of all four suspects on bail came as a surprise to the victim's mother, Margaret Schwandtner of the 4400 block of Parkmont Ave. in Baltimore. "Well, I'm glad that they have finally caught someone," she said. "But why are they allowed to get out? This is a pretty serious crime."

Mr. Gentry would not elaborate on the investigation, saying there were "some sensitive issues" involved. Mrs. Schwandtner said her son had gone to a tavern on Harford Road to watch people play pool. "He wasn't doing anything wrong there," she said. "Mark was never mean. If he got into trouble, it was usually because he was with the wrong people."

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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