Baltimore County police say a Dundalk mother of two who was found strangled in her apartment three months ago knew her killer and had been stalked by him.
"This killer can be identified," said Lt. Sam Bowerman, a criminal ZTC profiler, of a case that has stumped county police. "He is probably from the area or has connections to the area."
Barbara Stenzel, 37, was found dead May 27 by a woman who lived in the same apartment building in the 2600 block of Yorkway.
Philip G. Marll, a Baltimore County homicide detective, theorizes that Stenzel met her killer four days earlier as she and her daughters, Erin, 11, and Jackie, 8, walked along Yorkway.
According to Stenzel's daughters, a man in a white van stopped alongside them and asked if the woman's name was "Julie." She told the man "No" and gave him her name and address. Stenzel later told the children the man was her friend and might visit their apartment later, Marll said.
"That was one of Barbara's problems. She would talk to anyone, and she made friends with everybody," said Mary Dalton, Stenzel's mother.
Police said the man was seen driving in the neighborhood again before Stenzel's death.
Bowerman said the killer apparently did not have to work hard to gain Stenzel's trust.
Around 9: 30 a.m. May 27, three housing inspectors were leaving Stenzel's apartment after a routine visit as a man -- who fits the description of the man in the white van -- arrived, Marll said.
Stenzel introduced the inspectors to the man, but the inspectors told police they do not remember his name.
It was the last time anyone reports seeing Stenzel alive.
About 1: 40 p.m., April Blackburn, who lives across the hall from Stenzel, went to the apartment to borrow cigarettes.
"I knocked, but no one answered, so I checked the door. It was unlocked," Blackburn said.
She said Stenzel was stretched out on the sofa, face up, wearing dark pants and a pink long-sleeved shirt.
"It looked like she was sleeping on the sofa," she said. "I shook her foot but nothing happened."
Police believe that Stenzel was killed between 9: 30 a.m., when the inspectors were leaving, and 10: 30 a.m. when a friend tried to telephone her but got no answer.
"The cold thing about this case is that she was left there for her children to find dead," Marll said. "There was no sign of a struggle or defensive wounds or even any marks on her neck." The autopsy showed she had been strangled.
The detective said the killer may have stayed in the neighborhood looking for another victim. About 11: 30 a.m., Blackburn said she was taking out trash and saw a man in a white van drive within 3 feet of her.
"He honked his horn at me, and I kind of gave him a dirty look," Blackburn said. "So I just turned and walked away."
The man in the white van has not been seen in the neighborhood since. He is described as white, in his mid- to late 20s or mid-30s, 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, 150 to 180 pounds, with a slim build and broad shoulders. He had short dark hair.
Some witnesses said he had a goatee; others said he was cleanshaven. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt with a picture on it, blue jeans and white high-top athletic shoes. Anyone with information may call Baltimore County police at 410-887-2198.
Stenzel's slaying is one of 14 homicides in the county this year,four of them unsolved.
Pub Date: 8/11/97