Suspect sought other 'sitters' Reisterstown teen says man approached her, other girls

Hours later, victim agreed

Job offers extended at apartment pool

July 31, 1998|By Jay Apperson and Dail Willis | Jay Apperson and Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

A day after a Carroll County girl who went to a stranger's home to baby-sit was found strangled, another teen-ager said the man accused in the killing had asked her to care for his son.

Angela Cain, 17, said that she'd noticed a man watching her closely at the Bentley Park Apartments swimming pool in Reisterstown on Monday afternoon.

It wasn't long before the man struck up a conversation, asking, "Excuse me, do you baby-sit?" Angela recalled in an interview yesterday.

Police say that later that day, John A. Miller IV used a similar ruse to persuade 17-year-old Shen Dullea Poehlman, a Liberty High ++ School tennis champion and honors student, to agree to come to his apartment at the Bentley Park complex on Tuesday morning.

Shen thought she was going to baby-sit for the man's two children. Instead, Miller killed her, police say he confessed Wednesday.

Yesterday, as Miller waived his right to a bail review and medical examiners said Shen Poehlman had been strangled with an unidentified object, Angela described the shock of realizing that it could have been her.

"I didn't want to believe it. But I was a little worried because he has my phone numbers, my home number and my pager," said Angela, a petite teen not two months out of high school who lives near the apartment complex.

"That's when my mom really freaked out and I went to talk to the police. It's a good thing I had to work Tuesday morning, or I might have gone."

Domestic dispute

Although Miller had lived in Maryland only a few months, police had been to the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Isabella Sherman, at least once before the 26-year-old former Rochester, N.Y., resident was arrested this week.

Baltimore County police records show that at 11 a.m. July 3, officers from the Garrison district answered an anonymous call reporting a domestic dispute at Miller's address.

A man who lives in Miller's apartment building said yesterday that he called police after hearing a woman cry for help from the balcony of Miller's apartment.

The man, who would not give his name, said the woman screamed, "He's going to kill me. My God."

According to police, Sherman said she and her boyfriend had had an argument, that he had grabbed her neck and pushed her against a wall. The skirmish left Sherman with two red marks on her neck, the report says.

No charges were brought in that incident.

Held without bail

Miller is being held without bail on a charge of first-degree murder at the Baltimore County detention center.

He was charged after police found Shen's body early Wednesday in the back seat of her light blue 1988 Honda, which was discovered in the parking lot of a Reisterstown apartment complex, about a mile from Miller's home.

Police refuse to say whether the girl was sexually assaulted. Her body was fully clothed and covered with a blanket when it was found.

Miller and Sherman came to Maryland a few months ago, after Sherman found a job here.

In New York, Miller had been convicted of at least three crimes, including assault.

In a court hearing in Towson on Wednesday, Miller said that he is in the process of being divorced and has two sons.

Mike Natzke, who lives near the Bentley Park Apartments pool, said that a few weeks ago he began to see a Geo Tracker -- the model driven by Miller -- near the pool.

Sincere and persistent

On Monday, Miller asked several girls at the pool if they would baby-sit for him, police said.

Angela Cain said the man seemed to have collected a phone number or two by the time he approached her and asked whether she could care for his 5-year-old son on Tuesday morning.

Angela declined, citing her busy work schedule. But she said she might pass the offer on to one of her friends, and she gave the man her telephone number for a possible future baby-sitting job.

She said the man seemed sincere -- and very persistent -- in his quest to find a baby sitter in the immediate area.

"He was so manipulating that it came across my mind to go," she said.

But one request struck her as odd. He asked her to come immediately to his apartment to see whether the son might like her.

"It just didn't seem right," she said, "because I know little kids aren't going to walk right up and say, 'Yeah, I like her, I want her to baby-sit.' "

By Tuesday evening, as Shen's friends and family combed the neighborhood and police questioned witnesses at the pool, Angela knew something was wrong.

"You wouldn't think that someone who wanted you to baby-sit would be a murderer or a kidnapper," she said yesterday.

"It made me think twice about trusting someone I don't know."

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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