When Larry Darnell Miller was shot several times in an East Baltimore alley two months ago, he became more than another murder victim. He also became a murder suspect.
With Miller dead, witnesses to the 1995 slaying of a 71-year-old woman stepped forward. Police said they linked a gun seized from Miller during an earlier arrest to the slaying of the woman.
Police have closed the case in the death of Nannie Ree Hardy, who was hit last year by a .38-caliber bullet in the right side of the neck while praying in her second-floor bedroom in the 1800 block of N. Milton Ave.
But detectives are left with another mystery: Who killed Miller, a 32-year-old man with a history of drug and gun convictions?
"I have several possible motives, but I haven't been able to narrow it down yet," said Homicide Detective Bill Ritz, who solved the slaying of Hardy while trying to find who shot Miller.
The twisting scenario began Nov. 18, 1995, when Hardy went upstairs to rub her arthritic body with salve and say the Lord's Prayer. Her son found the body and said his mother appeared to have slipped off a chair while praying.
On Dec. 24, police said they arrested Miller at Mondawmin Mall and seized a .38-caliber handgun. The case eventually was dropped, but the gun was placed in the Police Department's evidence control section.
Ritz said at the time that no suspects had been identified in Hardy's slaying, giving police no reason to test the seized weapon.
But while investigating Miller's slaying -- he was shot several times in the head and upper body Sept. 21 in an alley off the 2300 block of E. Oliver St. -- Ritz said witnesses came forward and told him that the victim had been involved in a shooting Nov. 18, 1995.
"Now that the person's dead and there is no chance of retaliation, people are more willing to come forward," Ritz said.
Ritz researched the information and pulled old files. Learning that a gun had been seized from Miller, he retrieved it from the evidence room and had it tested. Police said a ballistics test matched the slug taken from Hardy's neck.
Police believe that Miller had been standing at Llewelyn and Port streets and shot at a man during an argument. Police said the bullet missed and hit Hardy.