Va. man goes for a ride with a stranger

After fugitive's offer of cash fails, flourish of gun gains lift back to Md.

A sympathetic listener

March 12, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

William Terrell had no intention of driving from his home in east-central Virginia to Baltimore County when an eerie stranger offered him a wad of cash to make the trip.

But when the stranger then whipped out a gun, Terrell, 53, knew he had no choice.

The insistent passenger was Joseph C. Palczynski, a man suspected in four killings and a kidnapping in eastern Baltimore County.

Palczynski's unlikely foray Friday into Virginia -- while police believed he was in Baltimore and Harford counties -- is one of the stranger developments in his violent odyssey the past week. Though some key details remain unclear, police say Palczynski's actions south of the Potomac are further indications of his brutality and resourcefulness.

Along with murder charges in Baltimore County, Palczynski faces charges in Virginia of use of a firearm in commission of a felony, vehicle larceny, breaking and entering, abduction and grand larceny.

Police believe that Palczynski hopped a CSX freight train in Maryland to reach Caroline County, Va., a sparsely populated area about a half-hour north of Richmond.

After 7: 30 a.m., Palczynski left the train and visited a house near the rail line just north of the Caroline-Hanover County line.

He is alleged to have stolen a 1989 Ford pickup, a .22-caliber handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun, canned food and socks from an unoccupied house, police said.

"We were very fortunate" that no one was injured, said J. E. "Skip" Samuels, an investigator with the Caroline County sheriff's office. Palczynski did not get far. The truck ran out of gas as he headed north on Interstate 95, three miles south of Spotsylvania County. He abandoned it with the shotgun inside, police said.

Visit to gas station

Bob Girsham, who owns the Cedon Market on U.S. 1 in Woodford, said stranded motorists from the nearby interstate often come seeking gasoline or other assistance.

"They just hop over the fence and walk right over the field," Girsham said.

Palczynski evidently made this stroll, too. He ended up at a one- story brick rancher in the 8400 block of Cedon Road, about a half- mile from I-95.

The house belongs to Terrell, a surveyor, and his wife.

Wearing a heavy brown-plaid flannel jacket on an unseasonably warm day, Palczynski was an odd sight to the couple. He kept complaining that he was hot but never removed his jacket, Samuels said.

Palczynski and Terrell went outside the house and talked, said Maj. Brian A. Uppercue of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Threatened with gun

Palczynski offered Terrell money -- perhaps $100 -- to give him a lift, Uppercue said. When Terrell refused, Palczynski brandished a gun. Terrell returned to the house and told his wife that he was taking Palczynski north.

No physical confrontation occurred, authorities said.

About 10: 30 a.m., Palczynski and Terrell left the house and headed to Baltimore County. Police said it was unlikely that Terrell's wife suspected any wrongdoing on Palczynski's part, because she waited until evening to tell the sheriff's office that her husband was missing.

The sheriff's office contacted the FBI, which surmised that Palczynski might be the kidnapper because he had given the Terrells an address that matched his mother's.

During the drive, Palczynski told his captive about what had happened in Baltimore County but Terrell retained concern for the stranger, police said.

"He still is very sympathetic toward Palczynski. He knew the whole story. Palczynski shared it with him on the trip," Uppercue said.

Police declined to characterize the account further.

Baltimore County police found Terrell in a convenience store in Middle River early yesterday, buying orange juice. They took him to headquarters for questioning and released him last night. Terrell was back home in Virginia by 7 p.m. but was unavailable to comment.

Palczynski, who had left Terrell and his truck and run into the woods, had not been found.

`People are cooperating'

As long as Palczynski remains at large, Caroline County officials are protecting the identities of the people affected by his actions in Virginia.

"People are cooperating very well with us," said Samuels. "They've been through quite a lot."

Jonathan Hunley of the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg contributed to this article.

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