Three teen-agers arrested in fatal crash at apartment

Unoccupied vehicle crushed woman, 28

February 15, 2002|By Gerard Shields and Dennis O'Brien | Gerard Shields and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police arrested three teen-agers yesterday in the death of a Cockeysville woman who was killed when an unoccupied Jeep crashed into her apartment.

David Jason Myers, 19, of the 9000 block of Waltham Woods Road, Parkville, and Anton F. Marx Jr., 18, of the 1800 block of Redwood Ave., Parkville, were charged with manslaughter in the death of Melanie Judith Wentz, 28. A third suspect, a 16-year-old whose name was not released, is being held at Charles H. Hickey Jr. School.

Police said the suspects broke into a Jeep Wrangler early Tuesday and intentionally shifted the vehicle into neutral, sending it down a steep, grassy embankment and through the wall of Wentz' apartment at the Century Apartments in the 300 block of Limestone Valley Drive. Wentz was crushed while sleeping in her bed.

At bail review hearings last night in Baltimore County District Court, both adults charged in the death appeared shocked and remorseful.

"It's unfortunate it happened. I'm very sorry it happened," Marx said.

"It's an absolute shock for the family," said Marx's father, Anton Marx Sr., who attended the hearing. "It's just every parent's nightmare."

Bail for Myers was set at $350,000, and bail for Marx was $200,000. Both were being held last night in Baltimore County Detention Center. A conviction for manslaughter carries a 10-year prison term.

The elder Marx said his son, Myers and the juvenile were arrested at Myers' apartment yesterday morning. He said that his son and Myers went to Loch Raven High School together and that the three suspects had just started "hanging around together" about three months ago.

In a statement of charges, Detective Allen S. Meyer said that all three suspects confessed and that Myers admitted to breaking into the Jeep and taking "an item" from it. The document also says Myers admitted that he and the juvenile pushed the Jeep down a hill the night Wentz was killed.

"After removing that item from the vehicle, Mr. Myers and the juvenile suspect pushed the Jeep backward up a slight incline, then went to the rear of the vehicle and pushed it forward with the intention of sending it down the hill on the side of the victim's apartment building," the statement said.

The document also said that all three suspects "broke into numerous vehicles in the Cockeysville, Towson, Parkville and White Marsh areas of Baltimore County."

"In several instances, the suspects were releasing the parking brakes to the targeted vehicles, sending them aimlessly into anything in their path," the statement said.

The state medical examiner's office ruled that Wentz, who was known to friends for her fiery red hair and perpetual smile, died of "compressional asphyxiation."

Wentz worked as a public relations manager at the Baltimore Zoo and was remembered as a dedicated employee who loved animals. Last night, the zoo's executive director, Roger Birkel, expressed relief that suspects had been apprehended.

"It doesn't bring Melanie back," Birkel said. "But if [the suspects] hurt someone, maybe they would hurt someone else. I'm glad that won't happen again."

Wentz hailed from Bridgeton, N.J., where her stepfather is the city solicitor and a former mayor. Family members last night declined to comment on the arrests.

Ann Feinstein, a neighbor of the family, said she was happy that suspects were caught.

"That's wonderful that they found them," Feinstein said. "And that they're going to be held responsible."

On Wednesday, police released a composite sketch of one suspect who they believed was involved in a series of Jeep break-ins.

At least 10 other Jeep break-ins occurred during a recent three-day period in Towson, Cockeysville and Parkville, police said.

Police said the thieves would steal items from the cars and then put the cars in motion. In the earlier incidents, the only damages were to other cars or utility boxes, police said.

Wentz lived on the basement floor at the bottom of a ravine about 7 feet below the level of the parking lot. Once the Jeep's front wheels were pushed over the 2 1/2 -inch-tall curb of the parking lot, the steep slope would have caused it to accelerate rapidly before crashing into Wentz' wall.

Before Wentz joined the Baltimore Zoo, where she worked for a year, she was public relations and promotions manager for the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden. She graduated with a communications degree from American University in Washington in 1994.

Sun staff writer Jim Haner contributed to this article.

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