Slaying is first at Inner Harbor Phillips employee charged in stabbing

October 10, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A kitchen supervisor at a popular Harborplace seafood restaurant was charged yesterday with fatally stabbing a cook in what city police say is the first slaying at the Inner Harbor since it was transformed into a tourist attraction in 1980.

A handful of customers was finishing all-you-can-eat buffet meals at Phillips Harborplace Express about 9: 20 p.m. Wednesday when the suspect allegedly grabbed a chef's knife with a 12-inch blade and stabbed the victim in the left side of the chest.

The cook, identified in court papers as Darryl Luttrell, 20, was attacked in an area between the kitchen and a buffet counter, apparently out of view of most patrons, police said. He collapsed in front of the women's bathroom and was pronounced dead at 9: 51 p.m. at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Phillips Express and a take-out seafood bar were closed yesterday out of respect for the man and to allow employees to meet with grief counselors. The restaurant's main a-la-carte dining room, also in the Harborplace pavilion, remained open.

"We're shocked," said Honey Konicoff, the director of marketing for the family-owned restaurant, which opened in Ocean City in 1956 and, in addition to Baltimore, has expanded to Washington, Norfolk, Va., and West Palm Beach, Fla.

"We're sad for everybody involved, whether it be our employees or the victim's family," Konicoff said. "We just want to support everybody and help them through this. It's a hard time for us. It's a sad time for us."

Police said the suspect fled the restaurant after the stabbing, wearing his white chef's uniform. About 11 a.m. yesterday, an anonymous caller dialed 911 and told a dispatcher the man was walking along the 200 block of N. Calhoun St.

A police officer pulled up to the block and approached a man, who was wearing a dark shirt and light-colored pants, and asked him if he thought police were looking for him. "The suspect said, 'Yes, I'm wanted for the murder that happened in the Phillips Restaurant,' " according to a police report.

Police identified the suspect as William Leroy Berkley, 41, of the 1500 block of N. Smallwood St. He was charged with first-degree murder, assault and using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony.

A woman who answered the phone at the Smallwood Street address hung up when asked about Berkley. In 1994, he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend and served seven months in jail.

Detective Donald F. Kramer of the homicide unit said Berkley declined to talk to investigators. The detective said the argument was work-related, but he didn't know other specifics.

He said Luttrell had worked at Phillips for about six months, but little else could be learned about him yesterday. Police said they had been to six addresses but could not find a relative or friend of Luttrell's.

Phillips was the first tenant to open in Harborplace, one of two Inner Harbor pavilions designed by the Rouse Co., which overhauled deteriorating piers to create a nationally known promenade credited with transforming the downtown.

The two-story Light Street pavilion is home to dozens of shops and restaurants and is visited by thousands of people daily. Police estimate Inner Harbor crowds at 200,000 during summer holiday weekends.

The stabbing occurred at a particularly inopportune time for the city, which is host to several conventions and is in the national spotlight with the American League Championship Series being played at nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Game one of the series was in progress when the stabbing occurred.

But police say Inner Harbor crime, which for the most part is confined to shoplifting and car break-ins, is dropping. Police said 136 crimes have been reported since the beginning of the year. In all of last year, 235 crimes were reported. Police said they have arrested about 400 people at the Inner Harbor this year, most for minor nuisance-type offenses.

The stabbing was "a spontaneous incident," said Maj. Bert Shirey, commander of the tactical unit, which oversees the squad of officers responsible for the Inner Harbor. "Two employees got into a tussle and somebody lost his temper and it resulted in a tragedy. It is not what we consider a preventable crime. It's not a random attack."

Shirey said the attack was the first slaying to occur at the Inner Harbor since Harborplace opened 17 years ago. Bodies have been pulled from harbor waters, but all have been victims of suicides or accidental drownings, he said.

Harborplace patrons said they felt safe visiting the attraction. Herbert Stanback, a Temple Hills resident in town for a U.S. Customs conference, heard about the stabbing when he tried to eat at the buffet, which had a sign saying it had closed for the day.

He said attacks like that can happen anywhere. "It's just an attitude that people have in general," he concluded.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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