Gun buys bring arrest

Essex resident's purchases linked to shooting rampage

Longtime friend of suspect

Police say she knew of criminal charges against Palczynski

March 11, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Federal agents arrested an Essex woman on gun charges yesterday, saying she knew fugitive Joseph C. Palczynski was a convicted felon but supplied him with the shotgun and rifle he allegedly used to kill four people and wound another earlier this week.

The arrest came as hundreds of state, federal and local officers teamed in a manhunt, scouring eastern Baltimore County, north into the Joppatowne area of Harford County and beyond in search of Palczynski, a violent man with a history of mental problems.

Area residents, on edge as the search entered its fourth day, avoided schools and many businesses while police in patrol cars, in helicopters and on foot with dog units followed dozens of tips and reported sightings. The leads only produced more frustration.

The Essex woman police arrested was identified as Constance Ann Waugh, 48, of the 12500 block of Gracewood Drive. Waugh was charged with making a false statement in connection with the purchase of a gun.

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, Waugh told agents she knew Palczynski well and referred to him by a nickname of "Joby."

Palczynski is accused of a rampage that began Tuesday night with the shooting deaths of a husband and wife in Bowleys Quarters who had taken in his former girlfriend after she filed assault charges against him.

He is also accused of kidnapping the woman and killing a neighbor who tried to come to her rescue. He is accused of shooting a woman to death the next night in an attempted carjacking in Chase.

Purchase of guns

According to the affidavit filed in connection with Waugh's arrest, Palczynski visited her at her home Monday and told her that he could not buy a gun because of a prior criminal record for assault, according to the affidavit, and that he wanted the guns for target practice.

The affidavit says Waugh went into The Gun Shop in Essex with Palczynski and bought a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, a sling to hold it, a pistol grip and ammunition. She also purchased three 20-round magazines for an AR-15, paying $368.49.

The two then went to White Marsh Arms in the 11000 block of Reisterstown Road, where Palczynski told Waugh to buy a Colt AR-15 .223-caliber rifle and a box of ammunition. According to the affidavit, Waugh paid for the weapon and ammunition with $1,600 in cash.

Waugh and Palczynski then went to Waugh's house, where he told her he would be back to pick up the guns later that night. "He returned about 11: 30 p.m. and gave her a hand-made bill of sale indicating that he paid her $1,600 for an AR-15 and a shotgun," the affidavit said.

Police say Palczynski began using the weapons the next day, at an apartment in the 3700 block of White Pine Road.

There, he allegedly kidnapped his estranged girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, 22, and fatally shot George Shenk, 49; his wife, Gloria Jean, 50; and their neighbor, David Meyers, 42.

In an attempted carjacking in Chase the next day, he is accused of killing Jennifer L. McDonel, 37, and then wounding a 2-year-old who was riding in a passing car.

Waugh's arrest came as a shock to neighbors in Chase. "I'm amazed, because she's the kind of person who would call me and tell me kids were messing around with the car," said Frances Simmons, a neighbor. "She was almost like the neighborhood watch person."

`On his list'

Simmons said Palczynski is well-known in the neighborhood -- and feared.

"He's told my son and daughter-in-law many times that they're on his list," she said. "He tells people he has a hit list."

Waugh, who has no prior criminal record, will appear before a federal magistrate Monday, said Mike Campbell, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokesman.

Officials say they have not spotted Palczynski since he surfaced with his estranged girlfriend Wednesday at a Rosedale motel.

Palczynski was arrested and charged with assault last week on Whitehead's complaint, court records show.

District Court Commissioner Kim Gordon refused to release Palczynski without bail on the ground that he may be dangerous to himself or to others and was on probation for assault and battery.

The commissioner set bail at $7,500. After paying $750 to a bail bondsman, Palczynski was released March 4 on the condition that he have no contact with Whitehead, court records show.

Gordon was on vacation and unavailable for comment yesterday, a co-worker said. But Judge Michael L. McCampbell, the administrative judge for Baltimore County's District Court, stood by the commissioner's decision.

`Bail was appropriate'

McCampbell said that the police provided the commissioner with Palczynski's criminal record, showing arrests and other contacts with authorities.

He said there was no record of Palczynski failing to appear for court dates, a consideration in assigning a bail amount.

Mental health information was not available on Palczynski, the judge said.

"It is my opinion that the bail that she set was appropriate with the information she had available to her at the time," McCampbell said. "If we were all clairvoyant, our jobs would be a lot easier."

Sun staff writers Jay Apperson, Peter Hermann, Michael James, Joan Jacobson and Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.

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