Body found near West St.

Wooded walking path near stores long known locally as trouble spot

Man had suffered head injury

If a homicide, it will be city's first of the year

April 18, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The body of a man who had died of a head injury was found yesterday morning near a liquor store on West Street in Annapolis in a wooded area that locals have known for years as a trouble spot.

Patrons of Lighthouse Wine and Spirits noticed a man, covered by a rug, lying face-down on a walking path used as a shortcut between the liquor store and Admiral Drive.

The man had identification on him, but police would not release his name last night because they had not notified his family. They said he is a 55-year-old area resident.

Police said it appeared that the man died late Wednesday night or early yesterday morning.

Officer Hal Dalton, an Annapolis police spokesman, said evidence at the scene points to a homicide rather than an accidental death.

Liquor store patrons and employees said the area near where the body was found was littered with blood-covered broken bottles, drug paraphernalia and discarded liquor containers.

The body was found less than 100 yards from a three-store plaza that contains the liquor store, a check-cashing store and a video store.

Tony Kidwell, assistant manager of the liquor store, said some of his regular customers use the area, which they call "the back track," to drink and use drugs.

"It's a bathroom. It's a hotel room. It's everything to them," he said. Police know about it, he said.

Dalton said Kidwell could have been talking about "any wooded area off West Street."

Kidwell said he frequently calls police to report underage drinking, drug use and panhandling, but he said police hadn't seemed interested.

"The same thing happens every time: When they get here, they just let everyone go," he said. "It's like you've got laws, but they're never enforced."

Dalton said the citywide response time is less than 2 1/2 minutes, and that the outer West Street area is designated a "hot spot," which means it has additional patrols.

"It gets as much attention as any other area of the city," he said.

Kidwell said police response yesterday was swift after he called 911 to report the body.

When customers alerted him that a man in the woods wasn't moving, Kidwell went to the area to see for himself.

"I said, `Hey, man, get up, get up,' " he said. But when he noticed a pool of blood and the broken bottles, Kidwell said, he ran away.

Police said no one has called to report the dead man missing and that no one has come forward as a witness in the case.

If the death is ruled a homicide, it will be the first in Annapolis this year. Of the four homicide cases last year, one, the beating death of a homeless man in October, remains unsolved.

Anyone with information on either case can call the Annapolis Police Department at 410-268-4141.

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