Suspect is charged in 2 more slayings Police say Metheny confessed on tape to additional killings

He faces 3 murder charges

He also claims he drowned a man in Patapsco, officers say

December 19, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

In several articles last week, the age of homicide victim Kimberly Spicer was incorrectly reported. She was 23.

The Sun regrets the error.

A man arrested Sunday in the slaying of a woman was charged yesterday with two more murders and has confessed to a fourth, according to police -- capping a frantic investigation into a series of mysterious disappearances over the past three years.

Police -- startled that they now have linked the killings and discovered another they didn't know about -- hope the arrest solves the unusually gruesome crimes. Police said some of the bodies had been sexually mutilated; one found yesterday was missing its head.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION PLEASE READ MEMO.

The suspect's taped confessions led homicide detectives yesterday afternoon to the skeletal remains of a woman and prompted them to charge the man with killing a woman whose body was dumped along Interstate 95 three years ago, police said.

And police said the suspect, Joe Ray Metheny, 41 -- who was acquitted in July of bludgeoning to death two homeless men with an ax -- has told police he drowned a man in the Patapsco River, but that body has not been found.

The arrest has relieved distraught relatives of the victims, including the father of the woman whose body was found by the shoulder of I-95, south of Caton Avenue. She had been stabbed and strangled.

"I think we're really lucky," said John Ingrassia, the father of Tina Lynn Ingrassia, 28, who disappeared in November 1993 and was found dead three months later. "I figured the killer would make a mistake or something. I figured they would catch him by accident."

Police say Metheny, who has been convicted of assault and drug possession, preyed on women fighting addictions to heroin or cocaine. Police said one of the women met Metheny at a bar in Arbutus where he was known as "Tiny." There, he hustled pool, downed Budweiser beers and kept the regulars laughing at his jokes.

"Everybody liked him," said Lisa Reynolds, a bartender at the Borderline Bar and Restaurant in the 3300 block of Washington Blvd. She said she once let him drive her to the wedding of a mutual friend who worked at the bar. "He was very friendly."

Confession questioned

Papers filed in court yesterday say Metheny has confessed to two of the slayings, but the lawyer who represented him on the double-murder charges in July said she doubts he is cooperating with police.

"That is just out of character for him," said attorney Margaret A. Mead. "I don't know if what the state is calling a confession is really a confession. He gave a statement in the double-ax murders denying involvement."

Little could be learned of Metheny yesterday. Mead said his parents are dead, he has no siblings and he was shuffled among foster homes in the Baltimore area after what she called an "abusive childhood." He has an 11-year-old son who is in foster care.

"I found him to be very honest and direct," said Mead, who called him an "artistic individual. He has a sophisticated sense of humor. He was always very, very respectful of me. He was never rude or violent."

Most of the crimes he has been convicted of did not include violent acts. "He would get drunk in a bar and get into fights with others," Mead said of the charges.

In summer 1995, he lived in "Tent City," a makeshift camp under the Hanover Street bridge over the Patapsco, described in court documents as a lawless community where knives, axes and other weapons were kept.

He was charged with killing two homeless men -- Randy Piker and Randall Brewer -- with an ax for $300 in August 1995. Their decaying bodies were found under the bridge Aug. 2, 1995, stacked on each other on a mattress and covered with a blanket, tree limbs and trash.

A jury in Circuit Court acquitted Metheny in July. "The evidence was not only insufficient, it indicated he was not the actual suspect," Mead said, adding that jurors believed another homeless man, nicknamed "Cowboy," was responsible.

After his acquittal, Metheny became a forklift driver at the Joe Stein & Son pallet company in the 3200 block of James St. in Southwest Baltimore, lived in a dilapidated trailer on company grounds and dressed in tattered clothes.

"He had a great sense of humor," said Joanne Stein, 20, the daughter of owner Joseph E. Stein. "He would do anything to make you smile or make you laugh. He never gave us any reason to be scared."

The police investigation into Metheny began Sunday, when police found the body of Kimberly Spicer, 26, under a box trailer 10 feet from Metheny's trailer.

A witness told police that "the defendant approached him and told him that he killed a girl," court documents say. Police said they found evidence that the woman had been stabbed in the chest in the trailer.

Court documents say that Metheny -- charged with first-degree murder in Spicer's death -- told police about other bodies, including Ingrassia's, the subject of a controversial investigation Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

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