COLLEGE PARK - University of Maryland students who were at the weekend party where a sophomore from Baltimore County was stabbed to death said yesterday that the attack came after a confrontation involving local teens who had crashed an off-campus homecoming party.
Prince George's County police Cpl. Joe Merkel said last night that police had not charged anyone in the death of Brandon James Malstrom, 20, a 2000 Dulaney High School graduate from Phoenix. Police interviewed several people who may have been involved in the stabbing Sunday, Merkel said.
The killing comes as police report an increase in break-ins, muggings and other crimes in off-campus neighborhoods that have been overtaken by students in recent years - especially in the area between U.S. 1 and the commuter rail tracks where the party took place.
"You don't feel safe anymore. It's getting scary," said Dan LaMonica, a junior from Parkton who attended the party.
And the killing follows a significant shift at the university: In the past year, most partying has moved to off-campus neighborhoods as a result of strict enforcement of university drinking regulations, students and campus police say. The trend has reduced problems on campus, but has pushed parties to areas that have less police presence - and are more vulnerable to nonstudent interlopers.
"That's a concern. We've had a vigorous alcohol enforcement on campus ... but it presents a challenge in off-campus areas," said Maj. Paul Dillon of the campus police.
The stabbing took place just blocks from campus, outside a small, 1930s brick house in the 7300 block of Dickinson Ave., about 100 feet from the epicenter of the student riots that followed a basketball team loss in April 2001. Students said the group of teens, estimated to number between six and 10, showed up at the backyard party - held by several fraternity members who live in the house - and started acting aggressively.
"They were looking for trouble," said Dan LaMonica's brother Mike, a senior who left the party shortly before the stabbing. "I thought something was going to happen, though nothing of that magnitude."
Michael Getachew, 20, a junior criminology major who was at the party, said the teens were "really loud. Everybody was trying to tell them to leave.
"They kept saying, `We'll fight anybody here. Call your boys, and we'll fight them, too,'" Getachew said. "They would stop for a minute but then bring it up again."
One student moved to fight a party-crasher but was held back, Getachew said. Things seemed to calm down, and some students, including Getachew, drifted away.
About 1:30 a.m., Malstrom, who students say was not involved in the shoving match, was found outside the party, lying on the ground with stab wounds. When Getachew returned, police cruisers were parked outside with two of the teen-agers inside.
Carol Malstrom says it is unclear whether her son's assailants tried to rob him of his cell phone, as some students report. Students who were at the party say a few of the teen-agers had been spotted upstairs in another house nearby and told to leave after being suspected of stealing some belongings.
Carol Malstrom said Brandon was leaving the party with his older brother William, 23, but was attacked by "very inebriated nonstudents."
"He was attacked and he was murdered, so senselessly," she said.
Malstrom was admitted into the university's selective business school after transferring from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He lived off campus and was not a fraternity member, students say.
He grew up in the house his father, William Malstrom III, built on Edgarwood Court in Phoenix the year before Brandon was born. An avid lacrosse player, he played for the Dulaney High team and in local recreation leagues.
"By those who knew him best, he was described as a very gentle young man, always respectful of others. Some even called him a peacemaker," said Dulaney High Principal Lyle Patzkowsky.
The family will receive friends and relatives from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Ruck-Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road in Towson. A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. John's Catholic Church at 13311 Long Green Pike in Hydes.
Yesterday, students expressed shock about the killing, which comes a year after two students died at on-campus fraternities - one from alcohol poisoning and one from an overdose of the party drug GHB. The deaths have been the lone black mark on a period of prosperity that has seen the university's reputation skyrocket, its applications surge, and its sports teams thrive; Saturday night's party was held to celebrate the football team's big win over North Carolina State University.
"It's crazy. It would have been a perfect day otherwise," said Dan LaMonica.