Manhunt's grip eases for residents

Officers are moved from field search to checking `sightings'

`We just don't know'

Lives, business returning to normal

reward set at $10,000

March 17, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

After conducting an exhaustive nine-day search of eastern Baltimore County, police acknowledged yesterday they are no closer to catching Joseph C. Palczynski, the man charged with killing four people and kidnapping two others.

"We just don't know where he is," said Capt. Joseph Burris, commander of the Essex precinct, who is leading the search for the suspect, who remained at large early today.

Yesterday, police announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to Palczynski's arrest. They also began reassigning officers involved in the search. Fewer are in the field, and more are recording and responding to reported sightings.

"It may seem like we are pulling back, [but] we are redeploying" officers, Burris said.

Residents say life is beginning to return to normal on the east side, where police dogs, search helicopters and patrol cars have become familiar sights. Fewer parents are picking up their children at school, and customers are beginning to return to neighborhood stores.

Police also reported that Palczynski, 31, has a distinctive tattoo on his right biceps of the roadrunner cartoon character. In the dust behind him is the word "Tracy."

That's a reference to Tracy Whitehead, 22, Palczynski's former girlfriend. She filed assault charges against him March 4, then moved in with George Shenk, 49, and his wife, Gloria Jean, 50, in their Bowleys Quarters apartment.

Police say that on March 7, Palczynski fatally shot the Shenks, kidnapped Whitehead and killed a neighbor, David M. Meyers, 42, when he tried to intervene.

The next day, police say, Palczynski killed a passing motorist, Jennifer McDonel, 36, while attempting to steal a car.

Police say that on March 10, Palczynski rode a freight train to central Virginia, where he stole two guns, cash and a truck from a house. When the truck broke down, he forced William L. Terrell, 54, of Woodford, Va., to drive him back to Baltimore County.

Palczynski ordered Terrell to drop him off in Bowleys Quarters late on the night of March 10, police say. That was his last confirmed sighting.

Police have several theories about his whereabouts:

Palczynski is still hiding in the woods somewhere. Police describe him as an avid outdoorsman who knows the east side well. In a letter Whitehead wrote to him Wednesday, she mentioned that he took her to the woods during the abduction.

If he is in the woods, he's probably not in eastern Baltimore County, police say the search has shown.

"There is no indication he was in those woods for long periods of time," Burris said. "The dogs did not pick up any leads."

Palczynski is receiving assistance, either from friends or from others he has forced to help him. Police say he persuaded a longtime friend, 48-year-old Constance A. Waugh, to buy two guns that he allegedly used in the killings.

"If friends or associates are harboring or helping a fugitive, that's a crime," Burris said.

Palczynski has left the area. Officials have focused the search along the CSX railroad tracks that run near woods in eastern Baltimore County. Police say he left the area using those tracks last week.

Terrell said the only other place Palczynski mentioned during their 14-hour ride was Idaho. The fugitive was arrested there in 1992, after he walked away from a Baltimore County mental institution.

Palczynski was killed or has killed himself. Friends say Palczynski has threatened suicide many times, saying he would kill himself before he went to jail.

Police say he is carrying a .22-caliber handgun and a knife.

Terrell said Palczynski phoned his mother, Patricia Long, on March 10 and talked about suicide.

Officials say they are concerned about the toll the shooting rampage and search has taken on east side residents.

"What is sad about all of this is that the community is being held captive," Burris said.

But there are signs of a return to normality.

"I think everybody is getting tired of hearing about it," said Peggy Harvey, a clerk at the Royal Farms Store on Eastern Avenue, less than a mile from Patricia Long's home in Chase.

At the S & S Cleaners on Eastern Avenue, owner Deita Harris said she has been keeping the back door locked because it is near the CSX tracks.

But, she said, customers are slowly returning.

"There was nobody here last weekend," Harris said, adding, "at night, we still lock the [front] door and make customers come in one at a time."

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