A cold case heats up with Fla. arrest

Woman, 45, in custody in '84 Balto. County killing

March 24, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

It took nearly two decades, a woman named Jennifer Jenifer and a convenience store robbery in Florida, but authorities have made an arrest in a 1984 fatal shooting in Dundalk.

Sheriff's deputies in Marion County, Fla., arrested Joann Culotta -- now a 45-year-old painter known as Joann Knight -- Monday on a warrant charging her with first-degree-murder.

Culotta is charged in the slaying of 69-year-old John Andrykis on Oct. 7, 1984, according to documents filed in Baltimore County District Court.

Baltimore County detectives were searching yesterday for her then-boyfriend, David Marsh, to "question him in connection with this case," police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

Culotta has waived extradition and was to be brought back to Baltimore County today, Toohey said. She was being held at the Marion County jail last night.

The nearly 20-year-old homicide case received a breath of life earlier this month. Baltimore County's two cold-case detectives had reopened the investigation as part of their routine work, and they contacted David Marsh's ex-sister-in-law.

When interviewed March 3, Candice Carol Marsh, 44, implicated Culotta and David Marsh, according to charging documents. The original investigators in the case had interviewed Culotta and David Marsh, but both "emphatically denied" any involvement in Andrykis' death, according to the charging documents.

In those documents, which were filed March 5, Candice Marsh gave this account:

Candice Marsh drove David Marsh and Culotta to Andrykis' home on Flood Road in Dundalk, thinking the pair would get cocaine and money from the man. Candice Marsh said Andrykis was a "sugar daddy" to Culotta.

As Candice Marsh sat in the car, she heard gunshots and Andrykis exclaim something to the effect of, "my heart, my heart." Culotta and David Marsh then rushed to the car shouting "go, go," and the group sped away.

Candice Marsh said the couple told her that Andrykis was shot during a fight, according to the charging documents.

When reached yesterday, Candice Marsh would not comment. She has not been charged in the Andrykis case, according to Baltimore County police.

Fran Pawlowski, 58, one of Andrykis' three children, said yesterday that her father, a retired Teamsters organizer, had never been involved with drugs.

"He was very kind to people," she said from her home in Lincoln, Del. "I think sometimes people took advantage of him."

`Unusual name'

The same day they interviewed Candice Marsh, the Baltimore County detectives called the Marion County Sheriff's Office and asked authorities there to help find Culotta, said Lenny Uptagraft, spokesman for the sheriff's office.

"They didn't have a whole lot to tell us," Uptagraft said, "except that the woman was likely in Marion County and was frequently in the company of her daughter, who has the rather unusual name Jennifer Jenifer."

Detective Jeff Owens of the Marion County Sheriff's Office's major crimes unit set out to find Culotta and her 26-year-old daughter in a county of 1,000 square miles and nearly 300,000 residents.

He had made little headway until a local Lil' Champ convenience store was robbed at gunpoint March 15.

Detectives went to investigate and were floored when the convenience store clerk told them her name: Jennifer Jenifer.

"I mean, what are the odds?" Uptagraft said.

Fla. officials use ruse

The Marion County detectives quietly tracked Jenifer and her mother to a rural area of the Central Florida county, Uptagraft said. Culotta had been working as a self-employed painter, he said.

A detective called Culotta with the ruse that some property she had reported stolen had been found, he said. The two arranged to meet, and on Monday -- after Baltimore County police had arrived -- Culotta was peacefully taken into custody, Uptagraft said.

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