After months of dead ends investigating last summer's double slaying at Loch Raven Reservoir, police have made a major breakthrough in the unsolved case -- recovering the assault rifle used in the crime and identifying two Baltimore brothers as suspects.
The AK-47 rifle, police said yesterday, was found during a weekend raid at the Hamilton-area home of Michael and Anthony John Zenone, who have been charged in two bank robberies, and are suspects in several other robberies and burglaries since 1993. Ballistics tests show that it is the same weapon used in the reservoir shooting, police said.
The Zenones, who live in the 4400 block of Forest View Ave., also are suspects in the June 15 double slaying, although they have not been charged in that crime, police said.
"They are suspects in the case because the murder weapon was found in their home," said Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey.
Added county police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan, "We are investigating them for various crimes over an extended period of time."
County homicide detectives would not comment on the case or say what other information or evidence they have linking the Zenones to the slayings of Vincent Young and Vernon Smith, the Cockeysville men whose bodies were found in shallow water near a bridge on Warren Road.
The probe into the slayings at the usually peaceful reservoir had stumped police for months, frustrating the victims' relatives. Police surmised that Smith, who had gone to the reservoir to fish, stumbled across something in the woods. He was bludgeoned to death; Young was shot to death.
But even though police had recovered bits of evidence, including shell casings and a cap, they went months without a suspect.
Patti Banister, Smith's widow, said that although she is happy the police have made progress in the case, she is trying not to get her hopes up.
"It's not 100 percent yet," she said. "And it won't be until they are actually charged."
Late Saturday night, FBI agents along with Baltimore County and city police raided the Zenones' home and recovered thousands of dollars in stolen property as well as an AK-47 assault rifle, police said at a news conference yesterday.
Ballistics tests on shell casings found at a robbery site -- as well as a bullet taken from Young's body -- show that the rifle was used in both crimes, county police said.
During the late-night search, agents and detectives found thousands of dollars' worth of golf clubs and athletic clothing -- some stolen from the Hunt Valley Golf Club -- 21 rifles, about $5,000 cash, boxes of compact discs, scanners and VCRs.
Until recently, Michael Zenone, 27, worked as a bartender at the Hunt Valley Golf Club, where Smith's red Jeep Cherokee was found after the killings, police said. Anthony Zenone, 30, worked for United Parcel Service.
"I'd characterize them as police buffs, and one of them had applied to various departments in the state but was rejected," said Timothy McNally, the FBI special agent in charge of the Baltimore area.
"Since they had all that stuff in their house, it's usually the cops and robbers syndrome," he said.
The Zenones -- who were recognized by a county police officer after FBI agents distributed photos taken during two bank robberies -- are charged in the April 12 robbery of the Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust branch in White Marsh and the April 26 robbery at First Virginia Bank in Towson.
The Zenones are being held on federal bank robbery charges, as well as assault with intent to murder and one count each of armed robbery in the Feb. 24 robbery of the Kenwood Bingo Hall in Baltimore, police and federal agents said at the news conference at FBI offices in Woodlawn.
During the Kenwood robbery, police said, the men walked into the hall armed with the assault rifle and a shotgun. Dressed in ski masks and camouflage outfits, they ordered everyone to the floor and took all the money, $3,000, from the cash register.
One of the pair, according to court records, fired the assault rifle at a customer and employee who followed them outside to get the license plate number from the getaway car. Police recovered shell casings that were matched to the assault rifle found in the brothers' home.
The brothers, who grew up in the Severna Park area, have lived in their house for six years, federal agents said.
Pub Date: 5/07/96