CHESTERTOWN -- More than 100 residents of the small rural community of Georgetown packed Asbury United Methodist Church here last night to seek answers in the shooting death of 73-year-old Germaine P. Clarkston on Dec. 4.
Police say they are still looking into the possibility that the shooting was a case of road rage. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation to determine whether race was a factor.
State, local and national officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People attended the meeting to reassure the shaken community that the investigation will be thorough.
"We're here in person, eyeball to eyeball, to gather information," said Jenkins Odoms, president of the state conference of NAACP chapters. "We want that direct contact to find out the facts, then we'll make decisions about where we go from here."
Still reeling from the killing of Clarkston, a grandmother who had been out shopping, friends, neighbors and family members want a reason why such violence could happen in a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone else and many families have lived for generations.
David Wayne Starkey, 24, and Daniel Robert Starkey, 19, brothers from Millington, a small town near the Delaware line, are being held without bail at the Kent County Detention Center.
Each is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and reckless endangerment. Clarkston and two other women in her car were black, the Starkey brothers are white.
"Why? That's all I want to know," said 56-year-old resident Amy Blake. "This community is truly a family, and she touched a lot of people's lives. Why was she taken from us?"
"The only thing we've ruled out is drugs," said Kent County Sheriff John Price. "Beyond that, we can't speculate on a motive."
Clarkston was killed as she and two other women returned home from a Christmas shopping trip. The former school bus contractor was buried Saturday in Asbury United Methodist Church cemetery down the street from her modest one-story home.
Her cousin, Meriam G. Spriggs, 67, and Spriggs' daughter Michelle Y. Wilson, 38, suffered minor injuries when two shotgun blasts ripped into Clarkston's 1988 Plymouth Horizon.
Police say the Starkey brothers began following Clarkston's car, driven by Wilson, near the small town of Millington as the women returned from a day of shopping in Dover, Del.
First flashing its lights, then tailgating or aggressively passing, a black Chevrolet followed the women for 21 miles. As Wilson pulled onto Georgetown Road, the truck pulled alongside and two shots were fired from the passenger side of the truck, according to police.
The Starkey brothers were arrested Dec. 9 by sheriff's deputies, state police and an FBI agent.
Nearly 300 mourners, most of them friends and relatives from Georgetown, packed the small church and its fellowship hall next door for the funeral service.
One of 12 children, Clarkston spent most of her life in the neighborhood of homes that line the rural mile-long Georgetown Road, about halfway between Chestertown and Rock Hall.
The community of about 50 homes is believed to be among Maryland's oldest African-American settlements, where free and enslaved blacks have lived since the War of 1812.