Suspect gives police details of 4 slayings Metheny's lawyer says he wants to stop killing

'Great deal of remorse'

Defense attorney says man changes on drugs, alcohol

December 21, 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.

Joe Ray Metheny wants to stop killing people.

That's why, his lawyer said yesterday, the 41-year-old suspect in multiple killings has sat down with a homicide detective and confessed to strangling, stabbing and mutilating three women and drowning a man.

"He's depressed, confused and under a lot of medication," said attorney Margaret A. Mead, who met with her client for 90 minutes Thursday in the psychiatric ward of the Baltimore City Detention Center. "He expressed to me a great deal of remorse."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Mead said that her client is addicted to drugs and that the slayings occurred while he was under the influence of heroin, cocaine or alcohol. She relayed what she said was a direct quotation from Metheny: "I regret what's happened."

Metheny, who the FBI says fits the definition of a serial killer, has been charged with killing three women: Kimberly Spicer, 26, whose body was found Sunday under a box trailer in Southwest Baltimore; Toni Lynn Ingrassia, 28, whose body was found nearly three years ago dumped along Interstate 95 near Caton Avenue; and an unidentified woman whose headless remains were dug up Wednesday 40 feet from the trailer.

Mead and police said Metheny -- who was acquitted in July of killing two homeless men with an ax -- has confessed to a fourth killing, that of a man he drowned in the Patapsco River, but whose body has not been found. Police say they do not believe there are any more victims.

On Wednesday, Mead doubted her client's confessions, saying it was out of character for Metheny to cooperate with police. She stressed yesterday she hasn't seen transcripts, but after Thursday's visit, she is more convinced he is telling the truth.

"He wanted the killings to stop," Mead said. "He's very polite, respectful and intelligent. He understands far more than most people. It's very indicative that when he's obviously under the influence of various narcotics, that's when there seems to be a personality change."

Yesterday, as a portrait slowly emerged of Metheny -- a large, broad-shouldered man who likes to draw cartoon characters -- FBI agents with the Serial Killer Unit in Quantico, Va., were busy ++ constructing a profile of the suspect.

Federal agents also charged Joe Edward Stein Sr. with gun violations. Stein owns the Southwest Baltimore pallet company where Metheny worked as a $7-an-hour forklift driver, Joe Stein & Sons in the 3200 block of James St.

City police arrested Stein with Metheny on Sunday as they emerged from a Christmas party. Stein was charged with being an accessory to murder. Federal court documents say an unidentified witness "advised that Stein assisted Metheny in the disposal of the body of Spicer."

Stein was released on bail, but FBI agents arrested him again Thursday, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of being a felon in possession of a handgun. Agents searched his Baltimore County home in the 1600 block of East Deep Run Road on Thursday and said they found a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol on his bedside night stand. Stein was convicted of arson in 1985 and theft in 1988.

Metheny lived in a trailer on company property. Spicer's body was found under a trailer 10 feet from where Metheny lived, and the remains found Wednesday were dug from a shallow grave 40 feet away, just off company grounds.

Stein's son, Joe Stein III, said yesterday that his father had nothing to do with the killings. And Mead said Metheny "adamantly denies that Joe Stein had any knowledge or participated in anything."

City police said they are still investigating the complicated case and are trying to identify the skeletal remains of the woman unearthed Wednesday. Detectives said the victim was tall.

Maj. Goldie S. Phillips Jr., head of the homicide unit, would only say that Metheny is being cooperative. He helped detectives find the woman's remains Wednesday. Detective Homer Pennington is the lead investigator on the case.

The city state's attorney's office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty, although Mead said Metheny's case fits the criteria.

Mead said she will await the results of a psychiatric exam before deciding on a defense, which could include insanity.

In her conversation with Metheny on Wednesday, Mead said they stayed away from specifics of the murders and instead concentrated on Metheny's background.

He was born in Baltimore County, but lived in West Virginia from age 2 to 6. Later, he was shuffled among foster homes in the Baltimore area.

He completed eighth grade but earned his high school equivalency and studied physics for 1 1/2 years while in the Army, where he was a field artillery soldier from 1973 to 1975. He was honorably discharged.

After that, he worked at various jobs, including at the Sparrows Point shipyards and for a liquor distributor. In 1988. he began working at Joe Stein & Sons.

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