Palczynski standoff continues in Dundalk

At least three people being held captive for the second day 'We're not in any hurry' Ruppersberger defends department's handling of case

Standoff In Dundalk

March 19, 2000|By Nancy Youssef and Dan Thanh Dang | Nancy Youssef and Dan Thanh Dang,Sun Staff

Baltimore County police continued negotiating early this morning with fugitive Joseph C. Palczynski -- a suspect in four murders -- who barricaded himself inside a Dundalk home for a second day with at least three hostages and several high-powered weapons.

Throughout yesterday, a county police negotiator kept steady telephone contact with Palczynski, who made repeated requests for food and to speak to his former girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead. Police sent a robot to the house on Lange Street last night with food and a cell phone while maintaining their siege.

Police said they were aiming for a peaceful end to the standoff. Family and friends also made several public pleas for Palczyn-ski -- a 31-year-old Bowleys Quarters man who has a history of incarceration, domestic violence and mental illness -- to give himself up.

"We will talk and talk and talk," police spokesman Bill Toohey said. "We're not in any hurry. We're prepared to wait a long time -- hours, days if necessary."

Palczynski's father, Joseph Palczynski Sr., called a television station to urge his son to release the hostages and surrender.

"We all love you and hope that you make the right decision so you can get help," his father said in a tape of the call that WBFF-TV aired last night. "That's what we all want. Please give yourself up and don't hurt anyone else."

Palczynski surfaced in Dundalk on Friday afternoon, less than a day after the police department announced that it would reduce the number of officers actively patrolling the area. After breaking into an Essex house, police said, he entered the Whitehead family home on Lange Street and took hostage Whitehead's mother, Lynn; her stepfather, Andy McCord; and her 12-year old brother, Bradley McCord.

County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the police department defended their actions against criticism from residents who had watched Palczynski terrorize their community, beginning with the first of a series of alleged kidnappings. Residents also questioned why police had not watched the Whitehead residence more closely.

"We'll explain it when it is all over, and it will all make sense," Toohey said.

Palczynski has been on the run, police said, since March 7, when he allegedly abducted Tracy Whitehead. Friends said the two had a stormy relationship over the years. Whitehead was staying with 50-year-old Gloria Jean Shenk and her 49-year-old husband, George Shenk, after a recent breakup.

Police said that as Palczynski dragged Whitehead from the Town & Country Bowleys Quarters Apartments, he shot to death the Shenks and David M. Meyers, a neighbor who tried to help. Whitehead subsequently escaped.

Police also accuse Palczynski of shooting and killing Jennifer McDonel, 37, a passing motorist, during an attempted carjacking the next night.

Police believe that Palczynski then traveled to Virginia and stole two guns and cash from a house and forced a man at another house to drive him to eastern Baltimore County.

After Palczynski's return, the search for him intensified, as police canine units, helicopters, a robot and patrol officers combed the woods and neighborhoods of Middle River, Essex, Bowleys Quarters and Chase.

'Outslicked the police'

Describing Palczynski as "skilled and resourceful," police said they believe that he had been in the Essex area the entire time after his return from Virginia. But they said they were mystified as to how he managed to elude the search teams.

"It's almost hard to believe that he's outslicked the police for this long," said Curt Skouron, 35, a Middle River resident.

But, on Friday afternoon, after police scaled back the search, Palczynski broke into a house in the 10200 block of Bevans Lane near Holly Hill Memorial Gardens Cemetery. He tied up Douglas Wilkinson, his wife and his son after they found him there, police said.

After subduing them, Palczynski seemed to become friendlier, homeowner Douglas Wilkinson said yesterday. For the next five hours, Palczynski told the family about the slayings, his feelings about what happened and his intention to continue eluding the police, Wilkinson said.

"I tried to tell him to give himself in," Wilkinson said. "I was just trying to calm him down, and then my family. I just thank God that he did not kill us."

Police said Palczynski then stole two high-powered long guns, a handgun and a pickup truck from the Wilkinson home, and left behind a duffle bag containing a battery-operated TV, and clothing and water bottles. He is also believed to be carrying a .22 caliber handgun that he stole from the Virginia break-in.

"This guy has an uncanny knack for finding guns," Toohey said. "It's remarkable."

Police said Palczynski then went about 10 miles southwest to the Whitehead home in Dundalk.

There, he began banging on a door at the home of Tracy Whitehead's mother, Lynn.

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