Promising future shattered by gunfire

Family, friends find `no sense' in killing

May 21, 1999|By Dail Willis and Dan Thanh Dang | Dail Willis and Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Richard H. Curlee was grabbing life with both hands.

He was a Marine reservist who wanted to be a Maryland state trooper; a hard worker saving up to buy a big diamond for his girlfriend; a brother and a cousin who wanted a family of his own.

But a future that looked so promising was shattered Wednesday morning at a Middle River gas station when an angry stranger threw coffee on Curlee and a co-worker, then opened fire -- pulling the trigger over and over as the young man lay begging for his life.

Kenneth Paul Randolph, 48, who lived a few yards from the Citgo station in the 2900 block of Eastern Blvd., has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting. But no one, least of all those who knew and loved 22-year-old Rick Curlee, can explain how anyone could kill him.

"There was no sense in this," said Melissa Floyd, who had known Curlee for years. "Rick's always been a sweet, energetic guy."

Curlee's death devastated his family and friends, who remained stunned yesterday.

"This should never have happened to him," said his mother, Tia Opfer. "I was waiting for my grandchildren -- that's all he ever wanted, was children."

Family members described Curlee as an honorable and loyal man who revered the Marines, with whom he had been a reservist since 1994.

"He was a gentleman," said Chris Garliss, Curlee's uncle. "He loved the Marines above everything else. He was going to be an aquatic drill instructor for the Marines."

Floyd, whose husband Bryan worked with Curlee, said that his passion for the Marines was so fervent that "he would walk through my house at 6 a.m. whistling that Marine hymn."

Curlee grew up in Baltimore County, attended Cockeysville Middle School and then Loyola Blakefield before transferring to Dulaney High School, said Gregory S. Conklin, Curlee's closest friend since childhood.

"We met when we were 12 -- he lived up the street from me," Conklin said yesterday.

As children, they biked, fished and water-skied -- pastimes that Curlee carried into adulthood as he fished regularly with his co-workers at Dig M Installers, a Middle River pool installation company.

Curlee was 6-feet-7 "with the body of an Adonis," his mother said. He played football and baseball in high school. More recently, he had joined a local baseball league, where he was a third baseman and a relief pitcher.

After high school, Curlee attended Harford Community College for a semester, but left to join the Marine reserves, working in supply and becoming a corporal. "He was so proud to be a Marine," said Conklin.

Curlee was hoping that the reservists would be called to serve in Kosovo, Conklin said. "He wanted to go. He wanted to fight for his country," he said.

Whether it was working after school at the 7-Eleven, building houses with his uncle in Monkton or digging sites for above-ground pools, Curlee gave his full energy to every task.

"He wasn't going to sit around and wait for somebody to do it for him. He wanted to learn how to do everything," said Bryan Floyd.

Friends and family said Curlee was a skilled carpenter, with a broad range of interests -- including Civil War re-enactments.

After Curlee helped Floyd put an addition on his house last winter, he went with Floyd to work at Dig M. Although Curlee had worked there only a few months, many customers called yesterday to express condolences, said company owner Marie Rooney.

"Everybody that met him liked him. He'd make you laugh," Bryan Floyd said.

But Curlee's lightheartedness did not interfere with serious matters. He had been dating Jade Brennan, a Goucher College graduate, for two years and planned to marry her. But first there was the ring -- an expensive diamond that he had been paying for in installments.

"He hadn't popped the question yet, but it wasn't too far away," said Bryan Floyd.

Curlee also wanted a big family, his mother said. He loved children and was particularly devoted to his younger brothers and sisters and a godchild.

Garliss, Curlee's uncle, said his nephew had taken the job at Dig M to help out Floyd, an old friend.

Such generosity and loyalty was typical, Garliss said.

As recently as the night before the shooting, Garliss said he had expressed concerns that Middle River was unsafe.

"I told him, `You're in a rough area,' " Garliss said. "Rick was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a terrible, terrible thing."

Sun staff researcher Eugene Balk contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/21/99

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