Seeking new tips in old cases Baltimore Co. forms squad to tackle unsolved homicides

Veteran detectives on unit

Team's first project is 1994 slaying of man at Arbutus business

November 04, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,STAFF WRITER

The 1994 killing of an Arbutus messenger service dispatcher was Detective Pat Giorgilli's first case as a lead homicide investigator -- an unsolved case that he could never put out of his mind.

Now, he's getting another crack at that case, as part of the Baltimore County Police Department's new Unsolved Homicide Squad.

Set up this fall by Chief Terrence B. Sheridan, the squad is intended to develop new leads on cases in which the trail has run cold, and to free veteran homicide detectives from the daily routine so they can solve those cases.

"Unsolved cases are never closed, no matter how much time goes by," said Lt. Sam Bowerman, who, with Giorgilli and three detectives to be named this winter, makes up the unsolved case squad.

He said that, "as time passes, relationships between suspects change, and sometimes new information or evidence can suddenly become available."

The squad -- similar to units in Baltimore and Washington -- will work on unsolved cases in which the original investigator no longer is part of the homicide squad.

Typically, detectives in these types of units go back to the original witnesses in a case and comb through the physical evidence in hopes of finding a fresh lead.

They may look for a different motive that would lead to more avenues for them to pursue. Or they may get lucky and receive a tip from someone who points them in the right direction.

"Everything you do, every person you talk to, turns up more leads and generates more work," Giorgilli said. "There is always something to check out."

This month, the two veteran homicide investigators began working on their first cold case -- the slaying of George King early on Dec. 12, 1994, as he worked the midnight dispatch shift at Prestige Messenger Service on Caton Center Avenue in Arbutus.

Although Giorgilli has pursued dozens of leads, he said he is baffled by the case and has begun reinterviewing people in hopes of getting to the killers.

"The frustration with this case is that there are so many employees in that company," he said. "And there is a lot of turnover, so it's hard to weed through them all. Also, even though we think it was an inside job, it may not have been an employee, but someone that heard about the money from an employee."

King, 45, had been working for about two years as the overnight dispatcher, directing truck drivers to their pickups and deliveries and handling emergencies.

Sunday, Dec. 11 was a normal night -- he worked on payroll sheets at his desk and watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" on television.

Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., he called Tish, his wife of 18 years, who was watching the movie at their home in Southeast Baltimore.

He promised her he would rent the movie and tape it for their video collection.

During the evening, two drivers and the office manager stopped by. King last was seen alive around 1: 30 a.m.

Nothing seemed amiss until about 3: 45 a.m. when Wayne Chaney, along with another driver, arrived and began to worry when they spotted King's car and car keys in the office but could not find him anywhere in the warehouse.

The back door of the office was unlocked, Chaney said, and as he and the other driver stood in the parking lot, he heard a loud thud from inside the warehouse.

"I walked around the corner of the building and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of George," Chaney said. "He was lying there behind the Dumpster with his shirt pulled up over his head."

King had been shot in the head. Missing from the warehouse were several boxes of coins totaling about $6,000 that were being stored for a client.

Nine days later, police found several of the boxes -- minus the money -- lying on an embankment in the 3300 block of Clipper Mill Road near Jones Falls. Fourteen of the black, gray or brown plastic boxes with metal corners still are missing.

Bowerman is a veteran homicide detective who is also an FBI-trained criminal profiler. It is his job to study the crime scene and the statements from victims and witnesses and to work up a character and personality sketch of possible assailants.

Bowerman describes the killers as "unsophisticated" and the killing as the "sloppy" work of a short-tempered amateur who may have killed King because King was able to identify him.

"They did not control their victim well," Bowerman said. "Why would they take him outside to kill him where someone could have heard the shot, see them or he could run away?"

Bowerman believes there was more than one assailant.

There is no way, Bowerman said, that one person could have moved the $6,000 in change packed in boxes that weighed 65 pounds each.

The robbery was probably an inside job, Giorgilli speculated -- maybe former employees or someone else who knew that the money was being kept in the office.

And Bowerman said getting rid of all that change probably aroused the suspicion of someone such as a bank teller with a customer who, since the killing, has repeatedly come in with rolls of coins.

Bowerman said the killer's accomplice probably has gone through a period of depression and could be concerned that, because he witnessed the killing, the shooter eventually would kill him.

Meanwhile, King's family is offering a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest in the case. His wife and son, George Jr., struggle with their grief every day, they say, knowing that the killer is still out there somewhere.

"He was my buddy, and I was his," Tish King said. "I don't know what to do without him. They not only killed my husband, they killed my family. We will never be the same again."

Anyone with information about the King case may call the Baltimore County police at 887-2198 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 276-8888.

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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