Officers hunt for suspect in killings

March 09, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police and the FBI have launched a nationwide search for a 32-year-old Bowleys Quarters man who they say kidnapped his former girlfriend after fatally shooting three people trying to protect her.

Two of the victims, a husband and wife, were killed Tuesday night in front of their child and grandchild in their Bowleys Quarters apartment. The third, a volunteer at Seneca Elementary School, was shot as he ran to the woman's aid, police said.

The shootings left neighbors rattled.

"It sounded like it was coming from right out there," said Lisa Dietrich, 28, pointing to her window of her White Pine Road apartment. "I heard a woman yell, `Oh my God! Oh my God!' Then I heard a guy say, `He's been shot.' I was afraid to move."

Joseph Palczynski of the 500 block of Carrollwood Road has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and a series of other charges in the deaths, which occurred at Town & Country Bowleys Quarters Apartments.

His former girlfriend, 22-year-old Tracy Whitehead, had moved there Sunday, two days after she moved out of the apartment she shared with Palczynski.

Whitehead had filed assault charges against Palczynski on Saturday,alleging that he beat her and threatened to kill her. Palczynski was arrested by county police and released after posting a $7,500 bond.

Court records also show that Palczynski, who has a history of mental illness, is on probation on charges of assault and obstruction of justice stemming from a 1996 incident.

Whitehead had been living in Bowleys Quarters with George Shenk and his wife, Gloria, both age 49, in a ground-floor apartment. Whitehead and Gloria Shenk had become friends through work.

According to charging documents, Palczynski arrived at the apartment about 8: 30 p.m. Tuesday armed with a shotgun and walked in through an unlocked sliding glass door.

Whitehead, the Shenks and their 12-year-old son and a 3-year-old granddaughter were watching television at the time.

"Tracy, get up, you're going," Palczynski said, according to the documents. Gloria Shenk said something to Palczynski, then she and her husband were shot in front of the children, police said.

The Shenks' son ran to an upstairs neighbor for help.

"The boy came and said someone is shooting his mom and dad. He said his dad was dead, but that his mother was still moving," said Robert Brashears, 39, who lived above the Shenks. "I was asking, `Do you know this guy?' And he said it was the boyfriend of the girl staying with them."

Palczynski left the apartment through the sliding door, police said, dragging Whitehead past another building in the complex to White Pine Road, where he had parked his 1996 Plymouth Voyager van. David M. Meyers, 42, a tenant in the other building, heard a woman yelling, looked out of the window to see what was wrong and ran outside to help.

Meyers was shot several times after he encountered Palczynski, police said.

Meyers' fiancee ran outside after him and found his body in the field.

"He died in my arms," Terry Conroy said yesterday, sobbing. "Dave was the type to help anyone out."

County police sent a message to police departments nationwide, saying that Palczynski had severe psychological problems and that he is carrying 100 rounds of ammunition, a rifle and a shotgun.

Police said they believe Palczynski has left the state. The FBI also has opened a preliminary kidnapping investigation. Police say Palczynski is driving a light-blue 1996 Plymouth Voyager.

Whitehead met Gloria Shenk when she took a job as a clerk at the D. E. Jones discount store on Carroll Island Road, a mile from the apartment complex.

Palczynski had come to see Whitehead at the store, said Edward Phillips, an area supervisor for the chain, but it was not until Friday that he learned about the extent of Whitehead's problems from Shenk.

Two days later, Whitehead moved into the Shenks' apartment.

Court records show Palczynski has a history of domestic violence and mental illness, dating to 1988, when he was convicted of battery for slapping and punching a 16-year-old girlfriend. He was thrown out of a domestic violence counseling program because of disruptive behavior, according to a report from the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson, Dan Thanh Dang and Joan Jacobson contributed to this article.

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