Burnell McLain walked out of his girlfriend's North Baltimore rowhouse about 12: 55 Tuesday morning, heading to his own home just two doors away.
Ten minutes later, a police officer found the Northern High School junior's body lying in a back alley four blocks away. The 17-year-old had been shot several times, and relatives say they have no idea why.
"There are a lot of family members who want closure to this case," said his sister, Angela McLain. "If this person was man enough to kill Burnell, he needs to be man enough to stand up and say he did it and accept any punishment that goes with it."
McLain was the second student from troubled Northern High killed this year. The killing occurs as city homicides are escalating at a record pace, and police commanders are meeting to develop new strategies to combat the problem.
In the first 105 days of the year, 102 people have been killed -- nearly one a day. Last year at this time, 75 had been killed.
Baltimore hasn't seen such numbers since 1993, when a record 353 killings occurred -- a grim statistic that was a factor in the departure of Edward V. Woods as police commissioner.
Last year, 310 people were killed, down from 331 in 1996.
A weekly crime meeting of top police commanders was especially pointed yesterday as they hashed out how to deploy troops to combat the problem. Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has scheduled a meeting today to refine an action plan.
"When we look at things overall, violent crime is down," said Col. John E. Gavrilis, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division. "Shootings are down. But we have a spike in homicides. That's what we are addressing now."
Burnell McLain was killed after leaving his girlfriend's house in the 700 block of Benninghaus Road in the Chinquapin Park neighborhood. Police say they don't know how he -- or his body -- got to the 1000 block of Evesham Ave.
His sister said McLain was interviewing at a college in North Carolina and was interested in pursuing chemistry. His girlfriend was pregnant, the baby due in August. He is survived by his parents, sister and four brothers.
"Everybody loved Burt," Angela McLain said. "He was career-oriented. He had goals."
Detective Gary Hoover of the homicide unit said he has a theory of what happened but refrained from commenting, saying it could hamper his investigation.
He said McLain did not appear to be involved in anything that could lead to trouble and had no run-ins with the law. He attended extra classes on Saturdays and worked at a McDonald's restaurant at Reisterstown Road and Northern Parkway.
But his sister said he wanted out of Northern High School. Though he had no apparent problems with classmates, she said, the school's reputation for trouble concerned him.
The school, with a student body of about 1,600, has experienced a rash of disruptive and violent behavior this year. Citywide arrests last year of youths who reported attending Northern High numbered more than 500, according to city police.
In February, a 16-year-old former Northern student was charged with fatally shooting 15-year-old sophomore Wayne "Marty" Rabb on a parking lot in Northeast Baltimore -- reportedly the result of a continuing dispute begun a month earlier over spilled milk in the cafeteria.
The suspect was among 50 of Northern's most disruptive youths, who were thrown out of the school in January in an attempt by the administration to gain control over an unruly student body.
Principal Alice Morgan Brown made national news in November when she suspended 1,200 students who defied her when she tried to restore order.
Angela McLain said her brother enrolled at Northern to make up some incomplete classes from Polytechnic Institute, where he had spent his freshman and sophomore years.
"He felt pretty safe in his own neighborhood," she said.
Pub Date: 4/17/98