Family asked for protection day before

Daughter says police agreed to give it, but were seen only twice

March 20, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The family of Tracy Whitehead said yesterday that they had asked Baltimore County police for protection one day before heavily armed murder suspect Joseph C. Palczynski stormed into their Dundalk apartment and took three family members hostage.

The request came from Laura Whitehead, the daughter of one of the hostages and sister of Tracy Whitehead, 22, Palczynski's former girlfriend. Laura Whitehead, 18, said she notified the Essex precinct Thursday that the family had returned home after hiding in Essex for more than a week.

Laura Whitehead said police agreed to station officers near the family's home in the 7500 block of Lange St., but she said they saw police only twice from Thursday afternoon until Friday night, when Palczynski took her mother, her mother's boyfriend and the couple's 12-year-old son hostage.

"We felt we would be safe, we felt there would be police protection," she said, adding that she left the apartment 10 minutes before Palczynski broke in. "We should have been able to go home. He should have never been able to get there."

Baltimore County police and elected officials have refused to comment on how Palczynski -- who is accused of kidnapping his former girlfriend before allegedly killing four people in a two-day shooting spree -- was able to enter the Whiteheads' home apparently unchallenged by police.

But police sources said yesterday that the department had arranged to put the family up in a hotel in Towson and had warned them not to return home.

"I don't think the family wanted protection," said a source in the county Police Department.

Family members strongly deny that claim.

The standoff began Friday night when Palczynski, 31, shot his way into the apartment and held hostage Lynn Whitehead, 40; her boyfriend, Andy McCord; and their son, Bradley McCord. The hostage crisis followed a 10-day manhunt for Palczynski in eastern Baltimore County neighborhoods and woods.

Relatives of the Whitehead family said yesterday that they are enraged that Palczynski was able to enter the home because, they said, police knew he had already threatened to kill Andy and Bradley McCord.

Susan Milliner, Lynn Whitehead's cousin, said that when Palczynski held Tracy Whitehead captive for 30 hours March7-8, he told her that he was going "to get her family."

Hours after Palczynski kidnapped Tracy Whitehead, her family said, they sought police protection but were denied.

Police declined to comment on the family's assertion.

The family went to Lynn Whitehead's sister's home on Delaware Avenue in Essex. When they arrived, Lynn Whitehead was distraught -- pacing, crying and expecting the worst.

"She did not think Tracy was going to come back alive; she honestly thought that was it with her daughter," Milliner said.

Tracy Whitehead -- who according to family members was beaten with the butt of a rifle and received a broken nose, black eye and multiple bruises in the kidnapping -- joined them in Essex after she escaped from Palczynski at a Middle River motel, family members said.

`Never left the house'

When Tracy Whitehead arrived, family members said, police provided round-the-clock surveillance of the Essex residence. No one left for days.

"They were fearful," Milliner said. "They never left the house, afraid that Joby [Palczynski's nickname] would see them driving around."

Tracy Whitehead was having severe nightmares, including dreams that Palczynski would kill her family, relatives said.

"She would wake up during the night screaming and crying," Milliner said.

By late last week, Lynn Whitehead was becoming restless. They had spent the week playing cards, recalling old family stories and monitoring news reports. By Thursday, the number of Palczynski sightings had greatly decreased and county police were beginning to scale back their manhunt.

After several days living with up to 14 people in a three-bedroom duplex, family members were becoming anxious to return home.

"I just got stuck in the house every day that week, and with all kinds of distractions, we just wanted to go home," Laura Whitehead said.

Lynn Whitehead also wanted to return to the job she had taken three months ago as a clerk at the Dollar Tree in Eastpoint Mall. Laura Whitehead, a student at Dundalk High School, said the family notified police, then returned home about noon Thursday. Tracy Whitehead remained in police custody.

`I saw two police cars'

Initially, Laura Whitehead said, there was a police presence in their Dundalk neighborhood, but family members were nervous that they were no longer under round-the-clock surveillance.

"At the most I saw two police cars during that time," she said.

Nonetheless, Bradley went out with friends and played basketball at nearby Berkshire Elementary School.

"Everybody in the neighborhood knew Palczynski was coming for [the family], but he was with a bunch of friends. Evidently, he was not too worried," said Jack Beale, 29, who lives in the 900 block of Elton St.

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