Woman abducted in front of home Columbia student kidnapped at gunpoint as neighbors watch

September 20, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this article.

While horrified neighbors watched, a 21-year-old woman living in Columbia's newest village was abducted at gunpoint yesterday at her home, handcuffed and driven away by a man suspected of having stalked her.

The abductor fled about 9 a.m. with Stephanie Musick in a red 1989 Dodge Raider, Maryland license M025480, according to Howard County police.

Police said they suspect 22-year-old Columbia resident John Righter, who lives in the 5000 block of Green Mountain Circle in Wilde Lake Village and was once Musick's co-worker at Sears.

Musick lives a couple of miles to the southwest with her mother, Diana, in the 6400 block of Grateful Heart Gate of River Hill, which has some of Columbia's most expensive homes.

"This is a very friendly place," said Tammy Lawrence, one of Musick's neighbors. "You'd never imagine anything like this could happen in a neighborhood like this."

Another neighbor said he witnessed the abduction while having breakfast. He looked out of his kitchen window about 9 a.m. to see a young man struggling with a woman on the lawn of a neighboring house.

"After the struggle, the guy forced her into the [sport utility vehicle]," he said. "Everything looked like it washappening in slow motion. He was waving a gun around in the air, so I thought he may have been a policeman."

The event was all the more troubling because the River Hill

neighborhood is so peaceful and family-oriented, said the neighbor, who moved from England with his family into a house a couple of doors away from the Musick home just two days ago.

"Everyone's been so friendly here and so welcoming, and then this happens," said the man, who asked not to be named. "When I saw what happened today, I thought, 'What the hell is going on?' "

River Hill is new, from the houses to the recently planted trees. Children's toys blanket perfectly manicured lawns along streets with names like Tender Mist Mews, Liquid Laughter Lane and Mellow Wine Way.

Another of Musick's neighbors said the event unfolded as many children were preparing to go to school.

"It was a big scene out there," said the woman, who also requested anonymity. "There were a lot of kids out there along the street waiting at the bus stop.

"I feel real bad for them," she said of the Musicks. "They seem to be a really nice family."

Musick and Righter met while working at Sears in the The Mall in Columbia, said police spokesman Sgt. Steven Keller.

According to a Sears official, Righter worked in the shipping and receiving dock at the store from May 1996 until the beginning of August. Musick, who is still an employee at Sears, works as a visual merchandiser.

Musick complained to police earlier this month that Righter was harassing her.

"It appears that the two had no romantic involvement," Keller said. "There's no indication that he has ever threatened her. If anything, he's more obsessed with her.

"However, he should be considered armed and dangerous," he said. "We don't know what he said to her, but obviously it's a dangerous situation."

Righter lives with his mother and older brother, who is a Baltimore police officer, in the Bryant Woods garden apartments in Columbia's oldest village. Last night, police searched the home and seized a computer monitor, hard drive and several computer diskettes.

"I watched John grow up," said a neighbor, Joseph Booker, 71. "He was always a quiet, nice young man."

"When we had the bad snowstorm last year," Booker said, "John cleaned the cars of the older neighbors. He never asked us for any money. He just did it on his own. That's the John I knew."

Musick told police Sept. 5 that Righter made contact with her again sometime over the summer after he'd left Sears and began harassing her, Keller said.

Musick, who Keller said is a student at Western Maryland College in Westminster, told police that she had seen Righter on campus and that he appeared to have been following her.

Keller said Musick also reported she received numerous e-mail messages from Righter, whom police describe as a white male, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds, with red hair, hazel eyes and a light-colored beard. While no details of Righter's messages were disclosed, Keller said Musick characterized them as "harassment."

Police said they contacted Righter after Musick filed her report and told him he could be criminally charged if he continued to harass her.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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