Homicide toll for '03 highest in a decade

Police solve 14 of 24 cases

15 killed in previous year

`This really is a safe place to live'

Despite increase, county saw drop in violent crime

January 04, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Eight days into last year, Gambrills teen-ager Joseph Aaron Demarest, missing since Sept. 3, 1996, became the year's first homicide victim in Anne Arundel County.

Three weeks ago, Mary Ella Ginger became the year's final homicide victim.

Between the discovery of Demarest's remains and Ginger's fatal stabbing at a local Subway restaurant, Anne Arundel County and Annapolis police worked 22 other homicides - the largest caseload in at least a decade - and solved 14 of them. Five of the cases were investigated by Annapolis police; 19 were handled by county police.

Last year's numbers are strikingly different from those of 2002, when police closed all but one of the county's 15 homicides by the end of that year.

FOR THE RECORD - A box in Sunday's Anne Arundel edition inadvertently omitted the name of one of the county's 24 homicide victims last year. It was Crofton resident Aaron Kirk Howard, 33, who was fatally shot April 20 outside Annapolis. Ervin Demontray Montague, 17, was arrested in Arkansas and charged with first-degree murder in Howard's death. He is scheduled for trial March 22.
Also, the box failed to include the date on which Zewan Montez Henriques, 25, was killed in Annapolis. It was Oct. 31.
The Sun regrets the errors.

But Lt. Joseph Jordan, a spokesman for the county Police Department, said Anne Arundel remains one of the safest places to live in the Baltimore-Washington region.

Despite the increase in homicides, violent crime in the county dropped more than 3 percent in the first nine months of last year compared with the same period of 2002.

In Annapolis, violent crime was down more than 8 percent in the first nine months of last year compared with the same period of 2002.

Annual statistics won't be available for several months, police said.

Capt. Gregory W. Imhof, adjutant for Chief Joseph S. Johnson, said Annapolis stacks up well when compared with other major cities in the area, such as Baltimore.

"This really is a safe place to live," he said.

Still, Jordan said, the county's seven homicide investigators were loathe to start the New Year with seven unsolved cases. Annapolis begins the year with three open cases.

"It's not good to take cases into the following year, because we'll of course be getting new cases as well," he said. "It just increases the workload."

Seven of the county's homicides, including the only case with multiple victims, have been attributed to domestic disputes.

On April 23, Diana Kunes Durrett, 40, and her parents, Mary Louise Kunes, 58, and Nathan Wilson Kunes, 61, were shot to death in Durrett's Pasadena townhouse. Durrett's husband, Jack Lee Durrett, 43, fled the scene and killed himself later that day in West Virginia.

The Durretts had been involved in a contentious divorce, according to court records. The day after the killings, the couple was to appear in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court for a custody hearing regarding their then-6-year-old son.

Diana Durrett's parents had been in town to support their daughter during the hearing.

Jordan called the case "extremely unusual" for Anne Arundel County and could not recall any other triple homicides.

The Durrett case was one of three murder-suicides last year.

In another high-profile incident, David Keith Frendlich, 35, a county police patrol officer for 10 years, hid in his estranged wife's Millersville townhouse and fatally shot her boyfriend - and then himself - on Halloween night.

Ronald Larry Boliek, 35, had been dating Lisa Frendlich, 34, for nearly a year when he was killed. David Frendlich opened fire as Lisa Frendlich and the couple's 5- and 6-year-old sons watched, according to police records. They escaped unharmed.

Shady Side resident Terry Harriett Pierce Eslin, 59, was the only Anne Arundel County woman charged with murder last year.

Police said that on Jan. 17 she used a rifle to shoot her husband, Richard Paul Eslin, 66, as he lay in bed.

She then used the rifle to bludgeon him, apparently because he threatened to divorce her after discovering that she had accumulated $34,000 in credit card debt, prosecutors said in court.

Last February, Anne Arundel County District Court Judge Martha F. Rasin ruled that Eslin could live at her son's home in Annapolis until the trial, which is scheduled for March 4. Prosecutors called the judge's decision unprecedented.

Although none of the five Annapolis homicide cases has ended in an arrest, city police consider two of them solved.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Jesus Rojas Olivera, 24, who is accused of fatally beating Alfonso Victoriana Serrano, 55, on April 17, but investigators believe he may have left the country.

Shawn Eric Woodlin, 30, is wanted for the Aug. 29 shooting death of Howard Eugene Stevens, 36, outside the American Legion post on Forest Drive, but investigators have not been able to locate him.

County police suspect that four people were killed when they disappeared last year - even though no bodies have been found in two of those cases.

In similar incidents, police found the bloody vehicles of Lamarst Alexander Porter Jr., 19, in Severn in September and of Nicholas David Tonic, 18, in Millersville last month.

Both men have been labeled homicide victims because of evidence found in their cars.

Jordan said that not having a body complicates the police investigation because it often yields clues as to the perpetrator.

But police were able to close one of the county's long-unsolved disappearances last year.

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