Man, 61, indicted in killing from 1976

Balto. County cold case one of oldest unsolved crimes to result in arrest

Balto. County man indicted in fatal shooting from 1976

April 24, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes, Ryan Davis and Jennifer McMenamin | Stephanie Hanes, Ryan Davis and Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A 61-year-old Baltimore County man has been indicted in a nearly three-decade-old fatal shooting, one of the oldest unsolved crimes in which county cold-case investigators have made an arrest, police said.

Ronald Ehrman Smuck, who was arrested Wednesday at his Rosedale home, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ronald Paul McFarland in 1976, police said.

Police in 1976 said the early morning shooting occurred after McFarland and an unidentified accomplice attacked a third man, construction company owner Franco Marcantoni. When the accomplice hit Marcantoni with a pistol outside the man's Reisterstown-area home, the gun fired and sent a bullet into McFarland's face.

The accomplice fled, police told The Sun that day. And for close to 30 years, his identity remained unknown.

But now, Smuck has been charged in McFarland's death and in the assault on Marcantoni, according to court documents. Two of the charges relating to the attack are "assault with intent to maim" and "assault with intent to disable" - counts that seem to support police assertions in 1976 that the confrontation was not a robbery, but an attack on Marcantoni.

Yesterday, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski ordered Smuck held without bail.

Attempts to reach Marcantoni yesterday were unsuccessful. His wife, Louise Marcantoni, said yesterday that she had not heard about the arrest of the man who police believe attacked her husband outside their home near Oregon Ridge Park. But she said police had been in contact with her husband.

Few details released

Police and prosecutors declined to share details about their investigation, or to say how, after 28 years, they connected Smuck to the attack and shooting.

There is scant information in the court file, in part because authorities chose to use the secretive grand jury process to secure charges.

"There are witnesses who are very afraid, and we want to keep their identities quiet," police spokesman Bill Toohey said.

Smuck has had other run-ins with the police in the past decades, according to court records, although it was unclear how many times he was convicted or whether he served time.

In 1986, Baltimore County police arrested Smuck in connection with a two-month investigation into an alleged prostitution ring, The Evening Sun reported.

The next year, he was convicted in Baltimore County Circuit Court of prostitution-related counts, such as transporting prostitutes, according to court records. He was put on probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, according to court records.

Arrested Wednesday

For nearly the past three years, Smuck has lived in a trailer park behind a nightclub in the 8200 block of Pulaski Highway, said trailer park manager Robert Rains.

About two dozen aging mobile homes surround a rectangular plot of broken pavement about the size of a basketball court.

Rains said people were constantly going in and out of the trailer where he said Smuck usually lived alone.

Neighbors said police arrested Smuck on Wednesday morning, walking him to a police car as he wore handcuffs and ankle chains.

McFarland's case is the 14th unsolved homicide in which Baltimore County police have identified a suspect since the department revived its cold-case squad in August 2002.

The oldest case the squad has closed since its revival is a killing that occurred during a robbery in 1971.

Two veteran investigators, Philip G. Marll and James W. Tincher, are assigned to the unit.

Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz and researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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