Columbians voice fears over killing

Police seeking clues hear concerns about crime rise in Oakland Mills village

October 04, 2002|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

About 50 people gathered last night to listen to Howard County police discuss last week's fatal shooting of Oakland Mills resident Edwin Rudolph Aytes and to voice their concerns over the unsolved killing.

"This feels like [a crime] that could have happened to anyone, and I think that's what concerns people so much. They want to be sure they're getting the protection they need," said Barbara Russell, a Columbia Association councilwoman who represents Oakland Mills.

Police offered few new details about the killing, and their investigation is continuing. The killing occurred Sept. 27 in Aytes' apartment building in the 9600 block of White Acre Road.

Police said that Aytes, 49, who lived on the top floor of the building, was visiting friends on the ground floor when he stepped out to go to the store. Less than a minute after leaving the apartment, he was shot on a ground-level stairwell, police said.

He was pronounced dead on the scene by police.

Police said they had few firm leads and hoped last night's meeting would prompt residents to come forward with information.

"We don't have anything that specifically rules out anything at this point," said Lt. Merritt Bender.

Many residents noted Oakland Mills' loitering problem, and some voiced concern about a pattern of violence in the village, which has had three other homicides in the past three years.

Others said the area's bike paths attract criminals because the paths, which are not well-lighted, offer an easy escape route.

"If I were a criminal, the first place I would go is that bike path," said Chris Weber, who lives in the area and said he regularly hears loud noises and people driving cars on the path.

Some people said the apparent randomness of the crime frightened them. Aytes, who was an office manager for a Columbia lending institution, was well-liked at his office and in the apartment complex, friends have said.

"I'm scared because it was [Aytes] that got killed. I can't think of why anyone would want to hurt him ... because it's not like he was a criminal or bad person," said Debby Gamble, who lives in Aytes' apartment complex and said she had known him for almost 20 years.

Livesay said he has reviewed crime statistics for the area and that "there was nothing that jumped out" at him. But he added that police would like to put a satellite office in Oakland Mills Village Center when funds and space are available.

Police urged residents to come forward with information by either talking to detectives who were at last night's meeting or by calling the tip line at 410-313-2283.

Police have offered a reward of up to $4,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

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