Arrest of teen in death of father stuns community

3 others wounded in Wicomico stabbing

May 10, 2000|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

SALISBURY -- The carnage inside the tidy, gray-shingled bungalow stunned even seasoned police investigators. Not one room, they say, was left without some trace of blood.

For friends at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the horror of the stabbing death of 57-year-old Warren Smullen was magnified when they learned that Smullen's son, a teen-ager who spent much of his time at worship or in youth group activities, had been charged in a slashing rampage that also left three female family members wounded.

Wicomico County's first homicide of the year apparently occurred after father and son disagreed about the 10th-grader's choice of friends and argued about his allowance.

Bruno Lorenzo Smullen, 16, has been charged as an adult and ordered held without bail in the Wicomico jail.

The boy is accused of plotting the attack for several days, lying in wait early Saturday as his father settled on a living room couch with a newspaper and his morning coffee, then stabbing and slashing the elder Smullen nearly a dozen times.

"We just can't get it all together in our minds," said the Rev. William Purnell Jr., an associate pastor at St. James. "He was a young man [who was] devoted to the church. It just doesn't make sense. The boy had never been in any trouble."

Purnell said the youngster spent three or four nights a week at the church, participating in a "step team," a gospel marching group and a Bible study class known as the Gospel Explosion.

Police say Smullen was picked up within an hour or two of the stabbings two blocks from the Smullen home by a deputy patrolling the well-kept working-class neighborhood just west of the Salisbury city line.

Sitting on a corner as the officer's cruiser approached, Smullen asked, "Are you looking for me?"

"He showed absolutely no emotion," said Detective Sgt. Robin Roberts, the sheriff's department's chief investigator.

"We have relatively little in the way of a motive. All we know is that his father didn't like his choice of friends, the kids he was hanging out with. And the father had cut back his allowance quite a bit."

According to police reports, Smullen told investigators that he took the largest butcher knife in the kitchen and waited in his room around 7 a.m. Saturday.

As his father began to read the newspaper, Smullen told police, he "crept" from behind and began stabbing his father in the neck.

As the elder Smullen stood and turned, police said the teen-ager told them, he stabbed his father in the chest until the man fell, shattering a coffee table.

The commotion awoke Bruno Smullen's sister, 33-year-old Portia W. Smullen, who suffered cuts to her head, face and hands after she came downstairs to investigate.

Two nieces, ages 14 and 17, who had been asleep upstairs, were also stabbed.

Police said Bruno Smullen told them that he threw his sister to the floor and attacked her before the girls intervened. Portia Smullen then ran to a neighbor's house and called police.

The 17-year-old niece was attacked while hiding in a closet with a telephone trying to call 911, police said. The girl suffered wounds to her hands, and her jugular vein was nearly severed. All three have been released from a local hospital.

"This could have easily been a multiple homicide," said Wicomico Sheriff R. Hunter Nelms. "You can just sense the immense anger in something this vicious. This didn't happen in a minute or two. This was a prolonged attack."

Smullen was described by church friends as a good student at Parkside High School in Salisbury.

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