A knife that might have been used to kill a 14-year-old Columbia girl has been turned over to Howard County investigators by an unidentified man who kept it in his vehicle for a week after the killing, police said yesterday.
Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn provided no details about the man, referring to him simply as "a concerned citizen." She said he is not a suspect in the killing of Ashley Nicole Mason, a Long Reach High School freshman who was found stabbed to death Nov. 3.
"The investigators spoke with him and ruled him out," Llewellyn said.
The knife, which police declined to describe, is being tested for evidence, a process that Llewellyn said could take three or four weeks.
At a community discussion of the case Thursday at Howard High School, Police Chief Wayne Livesay said police do not know whether Ashley was killed by an acquaintance or by a stranger. Police have said that investigators found no signs that the girl was sexually assaulted and have not identified any suspects.
While it is not clear whether the knife was used in the killing, the timing and location of its discovery closely parallel the circumstances of Ashley's death, police said.
Llewellyn said the man was driving on Bendix Road the morning of Nov. 3 when he spotted the knife in the street. He stopped his vehicle, picked up the knife and drove away.
About 11 a.m. that day, two delivery drivers saw a pool of blood in the rear parking lot of a shopping center at Bendix Road and Route 108.
They found Ashley's body in the woods a few feet away. Investigators determined that Ashley had been slain at the scene.
While the killing has been the subject of much media attention and community discussion, the man did not immediately realize that the knife he had picked up off the street might be connected to the crime, police said.
"During the course of the week, he apparently heard something of the homicide and never put two and two together," Llewellyn said.
This changed, she said, when the man heard a radio report Thursday that mentioned the location of the crime.
"When he heard `Bendix Road,' something clicked in his mind," Llewellyn said.
The next day, the man turned the knife over to police, who kept it over the weekend before revealing its existence yesterday.