Inmate charged in '80s killings

Convicted murderer accused in deaths of 2 other women

More open cases studied

August 06, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

A 43-year-old Elkridge man serving a life sentence for one homicide was charged yesterday in two others dating to the early 1980s, and authorities are investigating him in connection with several more unsolved killings in Howard County, police said.

Vernon Lee Clark was charged in the fatal stabbing in 1980 of Rebecca H. "Dolly" Davis, 70, of Elkridge, and in the 1981 death of Evelyn Dieterich, 68, of Catonsville. He is serving a life sentence in the Maryland House of Correction Annex in Jessup for the July 1989 murder of Elkridge resident Kathleen Gouldlin, 23, who was shot and sexually assaulted in her ground-floor apartment.

Police said they began looking again at the Davis and Dieterich cases last year in hopes that the latest DNA technology would produce leads. They declined to discuss their evidence.

Davis' relatives -- some living in her house -- said yesterday's announcement brought mixed feelings.

"It's a sense of closure, but on the other hand it brings back our depression, our memories," said Birgit Davis, who is married to Rebecca Davis' nephew James. "She was the nucleus of our family gatherings."

Rebecca Davis disappeared Feb. 15, 1980, and a week later, police received an anonymous tip, telling them to look near her house in the 6000 block of Lawyers Hill Road in Elkridge, according to published reports.

They discovered her body partially hidden in the woods behind the house. She had been stabbed in the neck and sexually assaulted, police said. The case was eventually dubbed the "mannequin murders" after neighbors found mauled mannequins near the scene days later.

Davis was known in the community as a religious woman, active in Grace Episcopal Church in Elkridge.

Dieterich, who enjoyed cooking, making knickknacks and riding her bicycle, was known as a fun-loving woman. A housewife, she loved taking care of her Catonsville home.

"She was very nice, very pleasant, she laughed easily," Mary Jane Fuhrman, 77, Dieterich's sister-in-law, said yesterday. "She never forgot your birthday."

Fuhrman remembers driving home from dinner and seeing neighbors run toward their car, telling them police cars had been to their house.

Dieterich was found on her back porch. A medical examiner found she died of blunt force trauma.

Acquaintances

Clark was Davis' gardener and a handyman for Dieterich, according to interviews and published reports. Police did not immediately link Clark to their deaths.

In 1991, Clark was convicted of murder in Gouldlin's death on July 4, 1989. Police said they believed Clark may have met Gouldlin, who lived in the 6100 block of Old Washington Blvd., at Fat Tuesday's nightclub in Baltimore, where she worked as a bar manager.

She was shot with a 20-gauge shotgun. Police found a pizza box linked to Clark outside her apartment. A small trace of semen found on Gouldlin's body matched Clark's.

Clark was sentenced to life plus 28 years in prison. The conviction was the first in the county based largely on DNA evidence. Officials conducted more DNA testing to determine whether Clark was involved in some of the county's unsolved homicides but had not charged him.

Clark, formerly of the 5700 block of Furnace Ave., was a lifelong Elkridge resident who worked as an animal skinner at Braun Carroll Co., an animal processing plant, for 11 years until his arrest in the Gouldlin murder.

In a 1990 interview, Clark said that he was innocent and that his lifestyle made him a suspect.

"If there was ever any trouble in town, the police always came to me," Clark said in an interview then with The Sun at the Howard County Detention Center. "Plus, I've got trouble with reading and writing, and I'm black. Put that all together, and I'm the solution for the cops' frustration."

3 unsolved homicides

At a news conference yesterday, Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay said Clark is being investigated in "several" other unsolved homicides. Police sources said they are specifically looking at at least three cases.

Two occurred in April 1979, when Carvel Faulkner, 58, and his wife, Sara Faulkner, 56, were killed in their bedroom in the 7000 block of Montgomery Road in Elkridge. Clark worked briefly for the family's trash hauling business, C & S Faulkner Inc.

Police identified Clark as a possible suspect in those deaths in 1990, according to published reports. Today they view him as a possible suspect in that case and another, the fatal beating of Iva Myrtle Watson, 81, in December 1984 in the 5400 block of Montgomery Road in Ellicott City, police sources say.

For now, Clark is charged in the Davis and Dieterich deaths. Birgit Davis said she has put the case to rest in her mind.

"In the end, it doesn't bring Dolly back," she said. "Because I am a religious person, I know God will ultimately do justice. Maybe I will see her in heaven one day."

Sun staff writer Del Quentin Wilber and researchers Jean Packard and Andrea Wilson contributed to this article.

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