Slaying victim's father criticizes police Letter-writing campaign says investigation stalled in unsolved beating death

April 17, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Frustrated that the beating death of his daughter 18 months ago remains unsolved, Herbert D. Battle has begun his second letter-writing campaign in hope of prompting detectives to dig deeper in trying to identify the killer.

His daughter -- Baltimore County 911 operator Linda May Lester -- had been missing nearly a week when highway workers found her partially clothed body near Interstate 70 at the Patapsco River bridge Oct. 17, 1994.

Ms. Lester, 31, who had been a police dispatcher for four years, was last seen alive about 10: 45 p.m. Oct. 11, when she left her job at the police communications center in Towson.

She was reported missing after she did not arrive to pick up her daughter at her estranged husband's house in Randallstown.

Her blood-stained gray 1985 Mercury Cougar turned up two days later in the parking lot of the old Ramada Inn in Woodlawn.

Mr. Battle, who lives in Glyndon, has criticized investigators. "It seems like they slacked up on this," he said, "like they are waiting for somebody to come to them. But they have to keep digging."

Mr. Battle, a tractor-trailer driver for Oles Envelope Corp. in Baltimore, spent about $300 and mailed hundreds of letters to police and county officials last year. The latest letters -- some signed by him, others by friends -- ask whether police devoted as much effort to the case as they did in a highly publicized slaying that had occurred a few days earlier.

"Is this case not as significant as the Debra Anne Goodwich murder," the letters say, referring to the shooting of a 19-year-old woman who interrupted a burglary at her parents' Green Spring Valley home Sept. 30, 1994.

"Major Allan Webster [commander for criminal investigations] has said how determined the police were to solve that case. Perhaps police remained determined because of the affluence of Green Spring Valley," the letters say.

Last April, investigators received tips that led to the arrest of a handyman who had worked for the Goodwich family.

"All homicides are aggressively pursued regardless of the money or status of the victim," said Capt. Rustin E. Price, who heads the county police homicide unit. "I can understand [Mr. Battle's] frustration, especially as time passes, but all investigative and forensic avenues are being pursued."

But Casper Campagna, a 52-year-old co-worker of Mr. Battle who is among about 25 people signing the letters, said, "You get a wealthy family and they have the money, and bingo, the case is solved. It's not fair; Herbie is a hard-working man."

Mr. Battle has mailed letters to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., county Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, newspapers and television stations.

Mr. Sheridan, who took over the department last week, has requested money for an additional 23 police officers in his budget for the next fiscal year. The positions are to be assigned to the criminal investigation division, where Mr. Sheridan plans to assign a squad of detectives to investigate unsolved murders.

Anyone with information about the Lester case should call police at 887-2198 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 276-8888.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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