A knock at a door and hours of prayer

Palczynski said he wanted to die near home, hostage says

March 13, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

WOODFORD, Va. -- Thirty-nine hours after being held captive by an alleged killer, William L. Terrell gathered at the kitchen table with his family yesterday and prayed for "Joby," his former captor.

They prayed for Joseph C. "Joby" Palczynski, 31, who allegedly killed four people and kidnapped another in Baltimore County and has been the object of an intense five-day manhunt by federal, Maryland and county authorities. Palczynski knocked on Terrell's door after the truck he was driving ran out of gas Friday, about 1,700 feet from Terrell's one-story ranch home.

"We pray that Joby will have the wisdom to not hurt any more people and that he will turn himself in," said Terrell, 54, holding hands with his wife and daughter.

During an interview yesterday, Terrell, a devout Jehovah's Witness, talked about the 14 hours he was held captive by Palczynski, an Essex resident. He said he did not try to escape because he believed that Jesus had sent Palczynski into his life to be converted.

So, as they drove to eastern Baltimore County, Terrell talked to him about the Bible.

According to Terrell, Palczynski said he wanted to return to the county because he believed he would be killed when he was caught and wanted to die near home.

During the trip, they made many stops to buy food, newspapers, a portable battery-operated television and survival supplies.

Terrell is the only person to hear firsthand Palczynski's story about the killings and how he has managed to elude police.

Their time together began with a knock at Terrell's door about 10: 30 a.m. Friday.

"I was practicing my music when he knocked at the door and said he was out of gas," said Terrell's daughter, Amber, 19, who plays piano.

Terrell came to see who was at the door and Palczynski told him his name was Ron Nessman and offered him $100 to drive to Baltimore County. When Palczynski pulled out a wad of cash, Terrell told him he would take him to the bus station.

"I was getting him some water at the sink and when I turned around he had a .22-caliber revolver," Terrell said. "He said, `I'm not going to hurt you if you do what I say.' "

Terrell said he started praying.

For the next six hours, Terrell said, Palczynski pointed the gun directly at him while they drove north on Interstate 95, stopping once at a KFC restaurant for a 12-piece meal, which they shared. Terrell said he was allowed to use his cellular phone several times to call his family and assure them he was all right.

Believing that to be the case, the family did not call police until 6 p.m., when he had not returned.

"I told him I wasn't going to tell him one thing and do another," Terrell said. "I was with him for 14 hours and I spent about 10 of them talking about the Bible."

After they had driven for some time, Terrell said, Palczynski talked about the victims and seemed somewhat remorseful. He told Terrell the victims had "gotten in his way."

Terrell said Palczynski told him that he killed Gloria Shenk, 50, Tuesday night because she didn't get off the phone fast enough when he came to take his former girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, 22, who was staying with the Shenks.

Police also charged Palczynski in the killing of Shenk's husband, George, 49.

Terrell said Palczynski told him that he killed David Meyers, 42, that same night because Meyers ran to try to stop him and he thought Meyers was armed.

Terrell said Palczynski told him that he shot at 54-year-old Wilfried Cook's legs Wednesday because he ran away as Palczynski stole his car. He missed Cook but hit and killed a passenger in a passing car, Jennifer McDonel, 37, an Essex woman who was one-month pregnant, according to police.

A 2-year-old boy riding in another car with his mother was grazed in the face, police said.

Terrell said Palczynski told him his real name and thought Terrell would recognize him, but Terrell had never heard of him.

Terrell said Palczynski told him he expected he would soon appear on the television show, "America's Most Wanted."

During the ride, Terrell said, Palczynski most often talked about how tired he was of being on the run and sleeping in the woods.

"He kept saying he thought he was going to pass out, he was so tired," Terrell said. "He told me he slept in the woods one night and slept in a campground another night."

Despite police speculation that Palczynski hitched a ride on a freight train to Virginia, Terrell said Palczynski told him he paid a woman to drive him there.

Terrell said he stayed calm by remembering a Jehovah's Witness magazine article on what to do if kidnapped.

"Be cooperative try to establish contact engage in small talk," said the article in the December issue of Awake!

While Terrell was away, his wife, Carole, read the article to keep calm.

Employing the advice in the magazine, Terrell told Palczynski that religion could help save him.

"I told him if he turned himself in, I would visit him in jail and have someone come and teach him the Bible," Terrell said.

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