St. Mary's enclave faces pain of slaying, arsons Girl's death unsolved

minister charged with burning house

September 12, 1998|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LONGVIEW BEACH -- Next to the gnarled piles stands the charred frame of a white clapboard house -- all that is left of the two-story home of a man who is suspected by some in his community of strangling a 13-year-old girl.

Keith Allen Green's home in this tiny St. Mary's County enclave was allegedly burned down by one of his neighbors, the Rev. David Leon Lindsey Sr., 38, a former Washington firefighter.

Lindsey has been critical of the investigation of the girl's death, which has yet to yield an arrest.

The indictment unsealed last week charged that Lindsey had conspired with two juveniles to "willfully and maliciously" set fire to Green's house in June 1997. It also charges that a television, which was seized at the Lindsey home, and a stereo were stolen from the property.

"It is our belief that the facts will show that he drove the juveniles to the scene and drove them back instructing them in what he wanted them to do," said Assistant State's Attorney Jim Tanavage.

Green, 34, is in jail in St. Mary's County, awaiting trial on charges of second-degree rape in an attack on a 12-year-old girl last year.

County Sheriff Richard J. Voorhaar refused to confirm whether Green is a suspect in the slaying. But he did say a suspect in the killing is in custody on an unrelated charge.

The state's attorney is in the process of presenting the case to the grand jury, Voorhaar said. He said he expects the case to be closed soon, but said that if the suspect is released before the grand jury completes its review, he will be arrested and charged with murder.

Claudia Pickeral, 13, was killed on a cold day in February 1997.

jTC She never made it home from the school-bus stop, and her body was discovered that evening by Lindsey's wife, Robin, and their daughter, who was a friend of the victim.

In Longview Beach, near the Wicomico River, the killing stunned a serene community where houses are named and boats are stored on blocks in the yard. The area was settled by middle-class blacks from Washington seeking summer cottages. It has fewer than 100 homes.

"This is a place nobody knew anything about until the murder and the arsons," said Bob Rotzinger, 65, as he painted his house. "It is Sleepy Hollow."

Anger over the sheriff's inability to make an arrest in Claudia Pickeral's death has continued to fester. Some residents argue that racial tensions between the black community and authorities have slowed the investigation.

"A lot of distrust still exists between law enforcement and the community," said Alonzo Gaskin, who was president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the time of the killing. "We are still the first people when something goes down that law enforcement looks at."

One of the community's most outspoken critics has been Lindsey. He has argued that the police work was botched from the start.

Kenneth E. McPherson, attorney for Lindsey, criticized investigators because they did not rope off the slaying scene or comb the area until the next day. He offered his view of Lindsey's actions.

"He used his visibility as a local minister to encourage a more vigorous investigation of the murder," McPherson said. "That effort has exposed him to false accusations that he would have a motive to retaliate against the primary suspect in the murder."

Lindsey founded the Victory Temple Church of God in Christ when the family moved here in 1994, converting a single-family home into the church. At its height, the congregation attracted two dozen members, including Claudia and her mother.

The church mysteriously burned to the ground in November. Authorities also have not solved that crime, although Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor said the arsons of Lindsey's church and the Green family home and the burning of an unoccupied summer cottage last year "may be related."

Lindsey is free on his own recognizance, but an alleged conspirator, Lindsey's nephew, Cory N. Beale, 17, is in custody in Prince George's County facing murder charges in an unrelated case.

In Longview Beach, residents are still locking their doors and glancing over their shoulders.

"Without them committing a lot of stupid crimes, it would be beautiful here," said Bernice Hudson, 49, who moved here last summer. "You never know who your neighbor is."

Pub Date: 9/12/98

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