Arrest of suspect brings Bolton Hill a sense of relief

Man accused of attacking residents, robbing homes

April 22, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The renaissance of Bolton Hill has made it one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods, with tree-lined streets, a strong community association and stately 19th-century rowhouses that sell for an average price of nearly $240,000.

Neighbors are friendly. Police consider it among the city's safest areas.

But the comfort zone that Bolton Hill residents have grown accustomed to was attenuated this year when a man committed a string of offenses that escalated from simple burglaries to rape and attempted murder.

George Rich, who lives in nearby Upton, was arrested March 31 after investigators matched his fingerprints with some taken from the scenes of the break-ins. Rich, 39, of the 1200 block of Mosher St., was indicted yesterday on rape, attempted murder, sex offense and burglary charges.

FOR THE RECORD - An article published in yesterday's editions of The Sun gave an incorrect first name for a man Baltimore police have charged with numerous crimes in Bolton Hill. Gregory Rich, 39, of the 1200 block of Mosher St., has been charged with crimes including burglary, rape and attempted murder. The Sun regrets the error.

Police said he broke into Bolton Hill homes and apartment buildings, some housing students from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Rich was involved in nearly 20 burglaries and home invasions from Jan. 7 to March 29, investigators said. Rich is accused of raping a woman in the 1400 block of Eutaw Place on March 19 and stabbing another woman during an attempted rape in the 300 block of Dolphin St. seven days later. He is being held without bail at the Central Booking and Intake Center.

Bolton Hill resident Sarah Cross, 28, said she's thankful for Rich's arrest. News of the crimes was posted periodically on the neighborhood's Web site.

`Heightened awareness'

"I think everyone took more precaution, especially after dark," Cross said. "It heightened everyone's awareness."

While the neighborhood was mostly hit by a spate of burglaries, the break-ins occasionally turned violent. In one, a woman was stabbed in the chest during an attempted rape in late March, said Maj. John Skinner, commander of the Central District, which includes Bolton Hill.

The stabbing occurred March 26 in an apartment building largely occupied by MICA students, Skinner said.

"This suspect was ... entering houses early in the morning or late at night," Skinner said. "During certain times, the residents were waking up, and he was getting confronted by the homeowners or other people living in the houses."

In several home invasions, residents were physically assaulted, Lt. Matthew Bauler of the Baltimore Police Department's district detective section said.

Police say Bolton Hill was familiar territory for Rich.

Similar offenses

Detective James Eigner, who works in the Central District, remembered that similar offenses had occurred there almost 15 years ago - but he couldn't recall who had been arrested in those cases.

He then recalled it was Rich who was charged in the earlier Bolton Hill crimes. The disposition of those charges could not be determined yesterday. Rich had served time in the past for burglary, Bauler said.

"I asked my old partner who's now in homicide, and he remembered the same name I did," Eigner said.

Eigner said he gave Rich's name to detectives in the police's sex offense unit, and they ran fingerprints from some of the recent burglaries.

The arrest may have put an end to the spike in crime in Bolton Hill this year, but it didn't quell everyone's apprehensions.

Jordyn Meredith, 19, is a Maryland Institute College of Art sophomore from Bethesda who lives in a Dolphin Street apartment building where the attempted rape occurred March 26 and a home invasion took place the day before. Rich is charged in both cases.

The $550 a month rent that Meredith pays there is a bargain, she said, but she is considering leaving. The risks involved in living there might not be worth it, she said.

"I've been looking at places," Meredith said recently. "It's just been hard figuring out whether to break my lease. ... But a lot of people are moving out."

Bolton Hill resident Elwin Guild, 58, said he hasn't been overly worried about the crimes but is glad an arrest was made.

"The only time I had ... anxiety was about a year ago when there were a rash of attacks on MICA students where an armed assailant ... was driving them to [bank machines] and making them withdraw money," Guild said.

Sharon Stewart, 49, a consultant to nonprofit organizations who was awakened during the middle of the night by a woman's screams in January, said she and her husband had thought about moving.

"It gives cause for concern," she said. "There's no clear answers on how to deal with the situation. "I don't want to go out and get a gun or a knife, that doesn't make sense. ...I don't want to be in a situation where somebody forces me to get into a car to drive to an ATM."

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