2 charged in deaths of elderly couple Man, woman arrested in Rosedale slayings on Thanksgiving

November 28, 1998|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF Sun research librarian Robert Schrott contributed to this article.

An elderly couple who had just returned from a midafternoon Thanksgiving meal were stabbed to death at their Rosedale home, and two people who had been begging for money in the area were arrested and charged with first-degree murder


Joseph and Bernice Ohler were found by a neighbor, who became concerned shortly before midnight Thursday when he saw lights on at the couple's two-story brick home. When he walked over to check, Irvin Tarbart found the 81-year-old retired electrician dead in a backyard flower bed.

Police officers found Mrs. Ohler, 82, in a hallway near the kitchen a few feet from an alarm-system panel. Both had been stabbed repeatedly, said Cpl. Vickie Warehime of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Lawrence Michael Borchardt Sr., 46, of the 6700 block of Havenoak Road in Rosedale and Jeanne Sue Cascio, 39, of the 6800 block of Bank St. in East Baltimore were charged with killing the Ohlers, who were well known in the neighborhood.

"They were like parents to us,'' said a shaken Tarbart as he and other neighbors gathered in the street yesterday to mourn the the unofficial caretakers of Coco Road, a small, tidy street lined with brick homes behind Golden Ring Mall.

Family members said the couple had gone out for a Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant that afternoon. Police said the killings occurred after 3 p.m.

Tarbart said he noticed the light on in the Ohlers' breezeway about 7 p.m. but concluded that Ohler might be working near the garage. At 11: 30 p.m., he walked over and saw the back door open. "And then I saw him in the flower bed," Tarbart said yesterday.

"He was probably going for help," said Clarence Pond, Mrs. Ohler's 79-year-old brother who drove from his home in Finksburg after state police brought the news of the Ohlers' deaths. Pond said that Mrs. Ohler may have been trying to activate the alarm system when she was killed.

Neighbors said the Ohlers, cautious and security-conscious, were quick to call if they noticed a door ajar or a strange car parked nearby.

"Joe couldn't do enough for any of his neighbors," said Tarbart. "If I was away he'd watch the house." The Ohlers held keys to at least three nearby houses, including his, Tarbart said. Yesterday, Pond and his son were carefully returning the clusters of keys with neat white labels to their owners.

Several neighbors said yesterday that the Ohlers had been generous with anyone who needed help and had given money to a couple who had been knocking on doors and asking for money for more than a week.

"I saw Joe earlier this week and he said, 'I hope you don't want to borrow money because I don't have any,' " said Bernie Getscher, who has lived across the street from the Ohlers for 40 years. Ohler told him that he had given money to a couple who had come to his home, Getscher said.

'There was a struggle'

Borchardt and Cascio were arrested in Baltimore on Bank Street shortly after their photographs were released by police and broadcast at noon, said Warehime of the Baltimore County police. Both were denied bail last night. Court records indicate both had been charged in previous incidents -- Cascio for second-degree assault and Borchardt for theft and forgery. The outcome of those cases was not available yesterday.

Neighbors said they recognized the couple from the broadcast as the pair who had been begging for money in the area. Police said that evidence found at the crime scene, coupled with calls from citizens, led them to Borchardt and Cascio in less than 24 hours.

"There was a confrontation [with the Ohlers] and a struggle,'' Warehime said, but she declined to provide any motive for the crime.

Yesterday, neighbors and friends talked sadly about the loss of the Ohlers, who had been married for 30-odd years after being widowed in earlier marriages.

Joseph Ohler spent his early years on the family's 80-acre farm in Frederick County. He worked for the Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant for a while, Pond said, then went into business for himself as an electrician until he retired several years ago because of poor health.

Bernice Ohler grew up in Middle River, her brother said, and worked as a restaurant hostess until her husband's illness led her to retire a few years ago.

Ohler hired a contractor to build his house at the corner of Coco and Golden Ring roads in 1950, said Getscher. Ohler and his first wife lived in the house at 6513 Golden Ring Road while Mrs. Ohler and her first husband lived next door.

Worked at Haussner's

Joseph and Bernice Ohler were married a few years after their first spouses died, neighbors said. The couple had no children.

Mrs. Ohler worked at Haussner's restaurant in Highlandtown as a hostess for nearly four decades, said a retired waitress who drove to the neighborhood yesterday, hoping what she'd seen on the noon news was not true.

At Haussner's, she was affectionately known as "Miss Bernice,'' said Helen Appel, who worked with Mrs. Ohler at the German restaurant.

"She was there almost 40 years -- she retired right after I did,'' said Appel. "I can't believe this, how fast life can end."

Pub Date: 11/28/98

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