Officers' response in killing reviewed

Slain woman's neighbors reported screams

January 30, 2003|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police investigated a report that a woman was heard yelling for help Sunday night on the street where a 52-year-old state worker was later found bludgeoned to death, officials said yesterday.

But the officers apparently didn't knock on anyone's door. And they left the street in Randallstown where Linda Carol Brooks was found beaten with an axe and maul late Monday, saying they didn't notice any signs of distress.

Police say they don't know if Brooks was killed Sunday night. But neighbors wonder whether officers might have been able to do more to prevent the killing.

Baltimore County police said yesterday that they were reviewing the officers' response to the report, which came in as a 911 call about 6 p.m. Sunday.

"My biggest concern is with police not following through. I wonder if I should have pushed the officer to do more," said Meg Bober, who called police after she heard a female voice yelling, "Help me! Help me!"

Officers stayed on the street with the windows of the patrol car rolled down for about 20 minutes but didn't hear the calls for help or notice signs of trouble in the quiet neighborhood known as Hidden Valley, police said.

"The officers didn't see anything or hear anything and the complainant didn't know where the calls for help had been coming from, which makes it hard to follow up," said Bill Toohey, a police spokesman. "At the moment there's no indication that the officers did anything wrong."

Monday night, police discovered Brooks' body in the bathroom of her home in the 4200 block of Holbrook Road. Early Tuesday, they arrested and charged her 22-year-old daughter, Sommer Loren Brooks, with first-degree murder.

Sommer Brooks, who lived with her mother, was denied bail yesterday and is being held in the Baltimore County Women's Detention Center.

Neighbors said they realize police can't bust down doors to make sure all is well in a neighborhood. But they said they wished the officers had knocked on the doors of nearby homes and searched the area more carefully.

"Maybe we could have saved her if the officer had gone up to the house," said Barbara Dixon, who also heard the yelling as she shoveled her driveway.

"You can't help but think this might have been prevented," said Bober. "This shows it can happen anywhere."

Bober, a real estate agent who lives near Brooks' cottage, said she first heard the calls for help while she was outside grilling for a Super Bowl party. "At first I thought it could have been a deer," she said. "Their whines can sound human sometimes. Then I thought, `Am I really hearing this?' I realized it could have been some kids' idea of a prank."

The yelling was intermittent. But when Bober could still hear the voice 45 minutes later and she, her husband and Dixon couldn't find anyone in the woods with their flashlights, Dixon called police.

Sommer Brooks called police the next night saying her mother had overdosed, according to charging documents. Linda Brooks was pronounced dead at the scene, with severe trauma to her head and face, police said.

Sommer Brooks, a former student at the private Garrison Forest School, graduated from the University of Maryland in May with a bachelor's degree in government and politics, according to school officials.

Linda Brooks had been a senior program analyst for the state Department of Budget and Management for more than 12 years. Her husband and Sommer Brooks' father, Richard C. Brooks, died last year, a pastor and neighbors said.

"She was a terrific, loving person," said Andrea M. Fulton, executive director of the state Office of Personnel Services and Benefits.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Assembly of God, 2122 W. Joppa Road in Lutherville, where Linda Brooks was a member.

Sun staff writers Linda Linley and Joe Nawrozki contributed to this article.

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