Police holding `person of interest' in killing of Johns Hopkins student

Man believed to be person seen in surveillance video on night of April stabbing

Criminal record includes burglary

July 15, 2004|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

THE MAN — Baltimore police have in custody a man whom they are calling a "person of interest" in the April killing of a Johns Hopkins University student, detectives said yesterday. The person in custody is believed to be the man seen on surveillance video taken in Charles Village shortly before the fatal stabbing, police said.

The man -- whose name was not released yesterday -- has an "extensive" criminal record that includes arrests for burglary, said Sgt. Cliff McWhite of the Police Department's homicide division. The man is being held on unrelated charges while detectives continue to investigate the killing.

The man's criminal record matches the profile detectives said they were searching for in the weeks after the killing. They have described the attack as a burglary gone bad.

Christopher B. Elser was stabbed about 5:45 a.m. April 17 inside the apartment building on the southwest corner of St. Paul and 30th streets rented by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The attack occurred about two hours after a fraternity party ended at the apartment house.

Elser, 20, didn't live in the building but had swapped rooms for the night with a fraternity brother who wanted to study in a quieter environment.

The attacker apparently entered the three-story building through a back door on Lovegrove Street that had been left unlocked or open.

The intruder entered the room where Elser was sleeping, and police believe that the student awoke and confronted the man. The man stabbed Elser in the chest and the left arm before escaping.

Elser fled to the room next door, telling a fraternity member that he had been attacked by a man and then collapsing. He died the next day. He was the only person to see his attacker.

Elser's death was the first homicide in Charles Village since 2000. Police have declined to say whether anything was taken from the building.

Shortly after the attack, police obtained surveillance video that they said was taken about two blocks north of the apartment house. Police said they have 25 minutes of footage during which the man peers into at least one building.

In an attempt to jump-start the investigation last month, detectives released a segment of the video footage and some photographs to the news media. They sought to identify the man seen walking in and out of Lovegrove Street less than half an hour before the killing.

Police also announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Elser's attacker.

McWhite said police found the man three weeks ago, after receiving about eight tips on the identity of the person in surveillance video.

While the man remains at the Central Booking and Intake Center, McWhite said, detectives are interviewing the man's friends and also working to use fingerprint and DNA evidence to determine whether the man is linked to the killing. Police are also seeking to develop a timeline of the man's whereabouts and activities in the weeks before the killing.

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