Police hunt for fugitive intensifies

Fearful residents lock doors, keep kids home from school

Southeast Baltimore Co.

At Rosedale motel, ex-girlfriend flees suspect in 4 deaths

March 10, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef and Dan Thanh Dang | Nancy A. Youssef and Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police pressed their search early today for a man wanted in four killings and a kidnapping as fearful east-side residents locked their doors, kept their children home from school and flooded investigators with reported sightings of the fugitive.

More than 48 hours after police say Joseph C. Palczynski began his bloody rampage, a search helicopter buzzed over his Chase neighborhood near Seneca Creek.

Dozens of police cruisers patrolled roads and guarded schools in the area. Teams of search dogs scoured woods in Rosedale, Essex and Middle River.

In a personal plea to her son, Patricia Long begged Palczynski to surrender.

"Joseph, this is Mom. Please don't do anything wrong anymore, please," Long said. "I want you to go back and talk to these people. Turn yourself in. Please, Joseph, please. This is hurting all of us.

"I don't want you killed. I don't want to see you die. And I know you said you'd kill yourself before you get back."

The message was left on Long's telephone answering machine.

The search for Palczynski began Tuesday night, when he is accused of shooting and killing George Shenk, 49; his wife, Gloria Jean Shenk, 50; and neighbor David Meyers, 42, at an apartment complex in Bowleys Quarters.

His estranged girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, had moved in with the Shenks two days earlier after filing assault charges against Palczynski. Police said Palczynski dragged her from the Shenks' apartment and killed Meyers when he tried to intervene.

Palczynski -- a convicted felon with a history of mental illness and domestic violence -- surfaced again about 7: 40 p.m. Wednesday, when police say he went on a shooting spree while trying to steal a car.

When the owner of the targeted car ran across Ebenezer Road, 36-year-old Jennifer L. McDonel, who was driving by with her husband, was killed by gunfire, police said.

Police said the gunman also shot at Lisa Marie Sims and her son, Gregory, 2, who were traveling on the same road. The boy was seriously injured when a bullet grazed the left side of his face.

The gunman ran after the owner of the car, got the keys and drove away, police said.

Minutes later, the same man walked into the home of 81-year-old Anna M. Etter, handcuffed her to an upstairs bed and stole her car, police said.

The suspect and Whitehead arrived two hours later at the El-Rich Motel in Rosedale, according to police.

The man did not have identification and offered a Social Security number. He signed for Room 25 under the name of John Silver as Whitehead stood by silently, said motel manager Harry Patel.

Richard Dawson, 34, of Baltimore, who was staying at the motel, said, "They looked like the happiest couple in the world," when they arrived. Minutes later, Dawson said, he saw them return from a nearby grocery store carrying bags of food.

"She came running and saying, `Help me. Help me. He's got a gun,' " Dawson said.

Whitehead ran to a police cruiser parked near the motel, where a hit-and-run accident had occurred. The man ran off and has not been seen since.

Of the hundreds of tips police received yesterday, none led investigators to the suspect, whom police describe as extremely dangerous and volatile.

"We've got everyone out there looking for him -- the police, the reporters, and the only person we didn't see was him," said a police officer who had just finished searching sections of Essex.

Many officers worked through the night and expressed frustration that the fugitive was still at large.

Officials are conducting a parallel investigation into how the suspect obtained the weapons he allegedly used in the shootings. An automatic rifle and a pistol-grip shotgun were recovered in a 1987 Dodge Shadow parked in front of the motel.

Police believe that the suspect might have purchased the guns through another person. Without weapons, food or clothing, police say, he might resort to stealing.

The prospect that the fugitive could surface again left residents and business owners on edge.

At Seneca Elementary School, across from his apartment, signs on the locked front doors instructed, "Please knock and wait for assistance." A woman would not allow a visitor inside, saying: "Police have told us to do this."

At a fast-food restaurant, hamburgers were served with a warning: "Be careful out there today."

Some residents took more serious measures.

Bill Brown, an employee at the Gun Shop on Eastern Boulevard, said about 15 gun owners bought extra ammunition. "They were saying, `If he comes through my door, they'll carry him out in a body bag,' " Brown said.

"People are very nervous -- helicopters at night, search dogs, they can't stop talking about it," said Craig Gleaton, a courtesy clerk outside the Safeway supermarket at Carroll Island and Bowleys Quarters roads. "I've talked with some parents who kept their kids home from school."

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