For UMES official, nothing but praise

Man wanted in crimes lauded for ability

October 07, 1999|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

PRINCESS ANNE -- Folks around the Somerset County seat don't know what to make of Derrick Alan Stevens, a fugitive who's wanted in a homicide and bank robbery in Los Angeles 16 years ago.

But nobody in this historic town of about 1,800, or on the sprawling University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus nearby, has a bad thing to say about the man they knew as Derrick Anderson, the college's director of dining services. Stevens' apparent criminal past caught up with him this week, shattering the identity he had so carefully crafted.

Undone when several people recognized his picture on FBI wanted posters sent to local police departments and post offices, Stevens slipped away from police who converged Monday outside Waters Dining Hall, the brick-and-wood-frame cafeteria where he has worked for about five years. He has not been seen since Monday.

According to the FBI, Stevens was one of four men involved in a bank holdup in October 1983. The car that investigators believe was used during their getaway is thought to have been stolen. Its owner was shot and killed.

FBI officials in Los Angeles were uncertain yesterday about the fate of the other three men in the crime, and about the roles of each of the four men. An FBI spokeswoman said Stevens was the only one of the four who had remained unaccounted for.

The wanted poster of Stevens has been placed on the FBI's Internet Web page, and Stevens is listed among the 10 most wanted fugitives on the Web site of the agency's Los Angeles office.

Yesterday, as students swept through the cafeteria line, friends and colleagues recalled an gregarious, immaculately dressed administrator who supervised dozens of employees and a food service and catering operation with a $1 million annual budget. They remembered the successful professional who liked to entertain friends with backyard cookouts at his lakefront home in Salisbury.

None of it matches the dark portrait painted by police.

"This was a guy who would never tell you what he couldn't do; he was a positive person who'd always tell you what he could do for you," said Ronnie E. Holden, vice president for administrative affairs at UMES. "When you read what the wanted poster says, you just can't believe it. There was nothing in his demeanor, his whole character, that would have given a clue."

Holden said the quality of food and service improved almost immediately after Stevens took over as acting director in 1994. Promoted to director in 1996, Stevens also oversaw a burgeoning catering operation in which university buildings, especially expansive Henson Center, are rented for conferences, parties and receptions.

"I can say he was an absolute professional," Holden said.

On Somerset Street, the main street in Princess Anne's three-block downtown, the FBI's wanted poster on the post office bulletin board has become an attraction for patrons who have heard about the nationwide manhunt for Stevens.

Workers at Waters Dining Hall, which faces the tree-lined university commons at the center of campus, refused to discuss their boss.

Food services coordinator Charlotte D. "Ce Ce" Collins, who shares a Salisbury house with Stevens, could not be reached. Staff members refused to say whether she has continued working since learning that Stevens is a fugitive.

The couple moved into the secluded Poets Colony neighborhood in North Salisbury in April, when Stevens, using the name Anderson, paid $116,000 for a 2,500-square-foot rancher.

The back yards of homes along Kiplinger Drive roll down to Johnson's Creek, a man-made, 108-acre lake stocked with bass, yellow perch and pike. The water habitat for Canada geese, wood ducks and other animals apparently was a major attraction for Stevens, according to his next-door neighbor, Glenn E. Miller.

"I was just talking to him a couple weeks ago. He was thinking about building a dock out there," said Miller, who had no inkling of anything out of the ordinary until an FBI agent walked up his driveway Tuesday afternoon.

"They had barbecues a few times this summer, sometimes with 40 or 50 people, mostly professors and people from UMES," Miller said. "My wife and I went over for one."

Margaret Pitts, a sales clerk at the university gift shop who met Stevens through a friend about a year ago, remembers playing cards with Stevens and Collins several times. "I've never heard anybody say anything bad about him," said Pitts. "He was just a clean-cut guy, the type of guy you'd take home to your parents."

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