It seemed that life was getting better and better for Jennifer Lynn McDonel.
Her baby, Lydia, celebrated her first birthday last month. McDonel and her husband, Thomas, had finally saved enough money to move out of her parents' home in Baltimore and into a townhouse on Turkey Point in eastern Baltimore County. Best of all, McDonel, a Jamaican native, recently found out she was a month pregnant.
An effervescent and spiritual person, McDonel, 37, worked hard at life so that her family could enjoy it.
That life was smashed to pieces Wednesday night when a gunman fired at McDonel's car as she was driving to church along Ebenezer Road in Chase with her husband. She was hit by a single shot and died at Franklin Square Hospital.
" `Destroyed' is an apropos word," Thomas McDonel, 41, said yesterday. "He has destroyed and devastated this family. He has left our daughter without a mother.
"It's kind of unbelievable."
Police say the gunman was Joseph C. Palczynski, 31, who was being sought for the killing of three people and the kidnapping of a woman in Bowleys Quarters the previous night.
On Wednesday, at about 7: 40 p.m., Palczynski tried to steal a car on Ebenezer Road, police said.
The McDonels were on the same road. They had just passed the Harewood Road intersection when they saw the gunman. He came running out of a field about a hundred feet away, waving his hands as if he wanted them to stop.
"I told her to `speed it up. Go. Go,' " Thomas McDonel recalled. "I didn't see a weapon in his hands, but he looked like the man I had seen on the news. He fired at the car. Two shots.
"My wife, she said, `I've been hit. I'm shot.' "
Jennifer McDonel died from a bullet that sliced through her liver and pancreas, Thomas McDonel said.
Yesterday, family and friends recalled a devout woman who had a zest for life. Jennifer McDonel was a woman who enjoyed traveling, loved her family and made friends easily. At work, she often entertained her co-workers by breaking into a Jamaican or British accent.
But McDonel, friends and family said, would be best remembered for her hugs and jokes.
"She wasn't afraid of being a touchy-feely person," said Kathi Thompson, director of Disability Determination Services in the State Department of Education, where McDonel had worked as a secretary since 1987.
"She wasn't the type you couldn't like," Thompson said. "You had to like her."
Yesterday, as her family gathered at the Turkey Point townhouse, many friends and co-workers either called or stopped to visit as Lydia lay sleeping.
"She is missed," said Kim Owens, a colleague. "It's still so hard to believe. I always thought this always happens to other people."
The McDonel family has established a fund for Lydia. Contributions may be sent to the Lydia McDonel Fund at Allfirst Bank, 809 Eastern Blvd., Baltimore, Md. 21221.