It was 4 a.m. when Joanne Valentine finished work at one of her family's two Pasadena nightclubs and drove up the long, pitch-black driveway of her waterfront home in Arnold.
A small foreign car carrying several men pulled up behind her. She got out of her car and yelled at them. One of the men pulled a gun, and as she raised her right arm in self-defense, the man fired. The bullet tore through her forearm and lodged in her neck.
The car sped off as Riptide, the family's Chesapeake Bay retriever, began barking and neighbors flicked on their outdoor lights.
Awakened by the commotion, Valentine's husband and their two teen-age sons, Nicholas and Vincent, rushed to the driveway. The boys watched helplessly as their 47-year-old mother lay bleeding in their father's arms. She died hours later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Ten years later, that driveway is the family's link to the unsettling past.
They gather there each Sept. 26 to remember Joanne Valentine and to remind the public that her homicide case is still unsolved.
"We continue to hope and pray for a break in Joanne's case," said her younger sister, Pam Lyons-Bustard, 49, at the vigil Friday night.
It's a crime that seemed imminently solvable: Anne Arundel County police quickly found the murder weapon, and twice charged the same man with Valentine's death. Both times, charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
But there have been no leads in the case in at least five years, according to detectives, and the family has grown restless. Some relatives wonder if they will ever see justice.
"We've come to accept that there may never be closure," Nicholas Valentine, 23, said in a recent interview. "But everyone still wants to know exactly what happened that night."
Inside the Anne Arundel County Police Department's closet-sized cold-case room, gold envelopes and three-ring binders of interviews and evidence in the Valentine case fill two large drawers. It's more than many unsolved homicides have.
"That almost makes it more frustrating," said Sgt. David Waltemeyer, head of the homicide unit. "We have strong physical evidence in the case. We have good circumstantial evidence. But we still don't have enough to put the puzzle together and make arrests."
There is a gun.
Less than a week after the shooting, police found a .38-caliber Taurus handgun in the car trunk of a man they arrested for shoplifting at a nearby Pasadena grocery store. Police have said in court that the weapon is "without a doubt" the gun that killed Valentine.
And there are witnesses.
Joanne's husband, Vincent Valentine, said he saw the shooting from a bedroom balcony near the garage, and a neighbor said he heard her argue with the assailants and saw their car drive off, police said at the time.
There has been a theory of what happened.
One of the original police theories was that it was a botched robbery. Joanne Valentine had $3,000 cash to attend a jewelry show the next morning and always wore expensive jewelry and beautiful clothes, her family said. The assailants took nothing.
Now, Waltemeyer said, "I can't say without a reasonable doubt that it was a robbery gone bad." He said that, over the years, investigators have developed two scenarios of what happened, but he declined to give details on either one and said police were still open to other theories.
There have even been arrests.
Edward McLeod of West Baltimore, now 53, was charged with first-degree murder after police said they found the Taurus handgun in his trunk. Months later, State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee dropped the murder charges against him, saying police needed more evidence.
By fall 1994, police believed they had found what they needed. An informant named Clarence D. Pittman told police he had overheard McLeod and another West Baltimore man, Gilbert Eric Griffin, bragging about the crime the night it happened outside a Baltimore crack house.
Pittman, who had been charged with kidnapping and carjacking, was released from jail that September in hopes that he could find other men who overheard the conversation. He disappeared briefly, but police found him and returned him to jail Nov. 2.
Based largely on Pittman's statement, a county grand jury indicted McLeod and Griffin on first-degree murder charges in the Valentine case Dec. 19, 1994.
But it turned out Pittman had been lying.
A public defender proved that Griffin had been in jail the night of Valentine's death, so Pittman couldn't have overheard him bragging that night.
Weathersbee again dismissed all charges in the case.
"Obviously, the police thought they had the right guys," Weathersbee said in 1995. "But the evidence we're left with no longer establishes that."
McLeod has been in and out of jail since, most recently charged with second-degree assault in April.
Valentine's case, meanwhile, has become stale.
"It remains an open case, and we're hopeful that it will be solved," Weathersbee said Friday. "Every unsolved case, no matter how old, is important to us."