Decorators' Show House is site of Guilford slayings


March 18, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

This year's Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House has 35 rooms, a baronial facade, numerous fireplaces, a floor plan ideal for visitor traffic, proximity to Sherwood Gardens and a bedroom where a double homicide occured.

The people who organize this grand event decided that Stratford-on-the-Green, the Guilford mansion of the late Dr. Walter E. E. Loch, would be "perfect" as a show house this spring even though Dr. Loch and his wife, Mary, were murdered upstairs less than two years ago.

The elderly couple were bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as they slept in their second-floor bedroom on August 14, 1994.

The Loch murders caused a sensation throughout the city. The couple's 30-year-old grandson turned out to be the killer. Evidence showed that Michael Reiriz had showered after the killings and ransacked the house in an attempt to make it look like a burglary. "In a city, your honor, that has around 300-plus murders a year, these rank as two of the most brutal we will ever see," prosecutor Mark Cohen told Judge Elsbeth Bothe at last summer's sentencing hearing. Having inflicted such profound horror on his own family, Reiriz received two consecutive life terms for his crimes.

Of course, none of this is mentioned in the press release that arrived the other day, touting the 20th annual Symphony Decorators' Show House. But then, if you're hoping hundreds of customers will pay $10 (in advance) or $12 (at the door) to visit the mansion during its monthlong opening this spring, you don't want to spook them off with talk of baseball bat murders.

It all sounds kind of bizarre to me. So, who's in charge of this production? The Coen brothers? John Waters?

Actually, a pleasant woman named Barbara Sheehan answers the questions. She's chairwoman of the benefit. She didn't know the recent history of the Loch mansion when she first looked at it. "We're in the show house business," she said Friday, "and they're not that easy to find."

She knows what's needed in a good show house at least 25 rooms for interior designers to transform, a good floor plan that can accommodate the flow of visitors, lots of space, front and rear staircases and the "gracious" Loch mansion has it all. Plus, it's for sale.

But there's no getting around what happened there 20 months ago. Did Sheehan think its selection was at all strange? Or macabre? Did anyone suggest that maybe the Loch tragedy was a little too fresh yet, and that it might be in bad taste to turn the house where they died such horrible deaths into a public attraction?

"It was not that big an issue," she said. "Our energies are focused on making it a beautiful house. This is our 20th year, and we do beautiful homes and that is our job. We did not think it would be a turnoff to people."

Indeed. When Sheehan spoke to The Sun's Elizabeth Large about this two weeks ago, she acknowledged that some people might be drawn to the show house "out of curiosity." (Yeah, well, I'd like to have a show of hands on that from regular visitors to the Symphony Show House.)

"Maybe it sounds Pollyannish," she told me the other day, "but I don't see why we can't move on, why the family can't move on, why the neighborhood can't move on. This is a wonderful neighborhood."

Yeah, well, this one still gets a permanent place in my Baltimore Bizarro file.

Flower Mart fallout

I hear there's still lots of hard feelings over the cancellation of this year's Flower Mart by the Women's Civic League. Dee Monch, president of the Brooklyn chapter and one of the area's most active volunteers, is livid that her group has been described as being too old or unwilling to work. Says Dee: "We can work circles around those other people." Sounds like we're going to need a peace summit. Or maybe one of Baltimore's young and dynamic management consultants could volunteer to help the league get organized for next year.

Cold one Cuban style

Ingmar Burger, our Remington correspondent, has just returned from Florida.

"I like Miami," he reports. "I try to go there every year. All aspects of life are touched by the Cuban community art, music, the whole schmeer.

"Anyway, I go to this Cuban restaurant right in the middle of Little Havana. Exiles and expatriates at every table, anti-Castro stuff all over the walls, not a word of English to be heard.

"I tell the waiter I want the beer everyone else is drinking. He brings me a Hatuey. According to the label, Hatuey was the great beer of free Cuba, named after a legendary indian chief who became a symbol of Cuban independence. The beer was delicious, no doubt bottled at a secret location and smuggled into the United States.

"Wrong. Hatuey comes from Indian Head Brewery, Baltimore, Md. Viva the revolution, hon!"

A little off the top for charity

Interested in a cheap haircut for charity? Head for Si Avara's International Aacdemy of Hair Design at 16 Dundalk Ave. today between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Regular cuts are $5 and styles are between $10 and $15. All proceeds go to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, which raises money for abused children. All pro stylists, no students. Thirty chairs, no waiting. ...Easter is starting to rival Christmas when it comes to decorated houses. Do a drive-by at 1032 Kenilworth Drive, Towson. It's an Easter Bunny bonanza.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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