Wet weather slows hunt for fugitive

Palczynski escapes to Virginia, comes back to Bowleys Quarters

Mother prepares surrender plea

Nervous residents of E. Baltimore County lock doors, get weapons

March 12, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef and TaNoah Morgan | Nancy A. Youssef and TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

While Joseph C. Palczynski's mother was expected late last night to plead for him to turn himself in, police continued their search for the man suspected of four killings who fled briefly to Virginia before returning home to eastern Baltimore County, where residents have grown increasingly nervous.

Hampered by the bad weather, which grounded aerial surveillance and dulled the trail for bloodhounds, law enforcement authorities combed the Bowleys Quarters area all day yesterday but did not find him.

They discovered early yesterday that Palczynski -- who is 31 and described as a lifelong outdoorsman -- had escaped Friday to Virginia, stolen weapons from a home there and then forced a Virginia man early yesterday to drive him back to the eastern side of Baltimore County, where the events began Tuesday.

Despite rain and poor visibility, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state police and Baltimore County police continued their round-the-clock search for Palczynski yesterday in the woods and on the streets, at one point searching vehicles driving in and out of Carroll Island Road.

Residents who have been captivated and terrified by the week's events in the typically quiet eastern Baltimore County community have armed themselves with baseball bats, loaded guns and knives scattered through their homes.

Police believe Palczynski is wearing layers of clothing -- some camouflage, some flannel -- and is carrying a .22-caliber revolver. He might also have a knife, they said. Police believe he was last seen about 7 a.m. yesterday leaping a fence on Orems Road.

"He's smart. He's daring. He has been in an element that he has been very comfortable with," said Maj. Brian Uppercue, a county police spokesman, referring to the thick woods where Palczynski is believed to be hiding.

"The officers are hesitant to go into dark woods because they can be ambushed," he said.

The series of shootings this week and subsequent searches have brought the community to a standstill, especially in the evening when many storekeepers are shutting their doors early, replacing their typical goodbyes to customers with warnings such as "be careful" and "get home before dark."

Court records show Palczynski has a history of mental illness and has repeatedly assaulted former girlfriends and their families.

Neighbors in the heavily wooded waterfront community hurried home yesterday to lock themselves indoors and break out weapons for protection if they were surprised by the suspect who has eluded police for days.

"I borrowed a small handgun that we keep in the house loaded now," said Jim Marcum as he shopped for food and bird feed at a local Safeway. "I think a lot of people are on guard."

Carl Pucci echoed his neighbors' concerns from the parking lot of a Rite-Aid drugstore.

"I've put knives in strategic locations, so if he came in we would have something around," he said. "It's incredible that one person can cause such a stir and disrupt so many people's lives."

Even people who said they don't believe in guns felt compelled to have some kind of protection.

"I don't own a gun, but I'm looking at buying one," said Deanna Schepling, 53. "What am I going to do living alone, if this lunatic came near my house? I never felt the need for one, but this is making me want to have one. The police can't catch him."

Sandy Bochenek, who lives about a mile from the apartment complex where Tuesday's shootings occurred, said she won't have a gun in the house with her toddler daughter, but "I went to my mother's and got a baseball bat because our dogs would just lick him to death."

"I don't open the windows," she said. "I keep the outside lights on. I feel like I'm watching my back. Everybody that walks by -- a guy -- I don't know. He could be disguised."

Palczynski has been hunted since Tuesday evening when, police say, he went to an apartment in the 3700 block of White Pine Road, kidnapped his estranged girlfriend Tracy Whitehead, 22, and shot two people who had taken her in -- 49-year-old George Shenk and his wife Gloria, 50. Palczynski is accused of gunning down 42-year-old David Michael Meyers, a neighbor of the Shenks, when he came to Whitehead's aid.

Police believe Palczynski surfaced again shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, fatally shooting Jennifer McDonel, 37, in her car at the 8600 block of Ebenezer Road during an attempted carjacking. A 2-year-old boy riding with his mother in another car was also grazed by a pellet from the carjacker's shotgun, police said.

Within minutes, police say, he stole a car at gunpoint from an 81-year-old Rosedale woman who was not injured.

Two hours later, at a Rosedale motel, Whitehead escaped her captor, who fled on foot, leaving behind the stolen car with a shotgun and rifle, police said.

Federal investigators charged Constance Ann Waugh, 48, of the 12500 block of Gracewood Avenue in Chase, Friday with illegally purchasing the weapons for Palczynski.

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