Target, motive unknown in Arundel shooting

October 19, 2005|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

On a drizzly Friday afternoon, Kenneth Brian Kertesz brought his parents to the 8,000-square- foot home he was planning to buy at South River Colony in Anne Arundel County.

A lifelong bachelor, the 43-year-old Kertesz told his parents that this was the home he would spend the rest of his life in, where he would finally settle down, and where the family could spend time together for years to come. Then, the Waldorf man hugged and kissed them both and went back to the office, running a little late, as he often did.

Later that afternoon, a man walked into the two-story brick building in Edgewater where Kertesz worked as a manager, and fatally shot him and wounded William Augustus "Billy" Snow Jr. of Chesapeake Beach. Then, police say, the gunman fatally shot himself in his truck a short distance away.

Police say they don't expect to issue a report on their investigation for at least another month, but have said they consider the shooting a "domestic-related incident."

"We don't know exactly who his target was," said Lt. David Waltemeyer, an Arundel police spokesman. "We can't be exactly sure what his actual motive was."

The sudden death of a successful businessman known for his generosity has left Kertesz' family and friends able only to speculate as to why he was killed.

Authorities have said little about Michael Wayne Baxter Jr., 30, the Bowie man they identified as the shooter.

According to police, a female employee of the company where Kertesz worked, Universal Mortgage & Finance, had just broken up with Baxter. But she wasn't there when he pulled his truck up to the front door and walked in, rifle in hand. She had taken a half-day off, police said.

Police have declined to identify the woman, who did not return phone messages left at her office.

But Deanna McWilliams, a close friend of Kertesz who works at Global Title, a sister company on the first floor of the complex, said the woman told her that Baxter falsely suspected she was having a relationship with Kertesz.

"He [Baxter] looked at her phone bill and saw all these phone calls from Kenny," McWilliams said. "But she was his processor, and in the mortgage business, you have to be on the phone talking about work all the time."

Court records reveal that Baxter had no criminal record in Maryland and only a minor traffic violation in Hawaii. He was buried last week in a veterans cemetery in Crownsville; many of his prior addresses are on or near Marine Corps installations. Family members reached in Maryland and West Virginia declined to comment for this article.

Authorities gave this account of what happened:

Shortly before 3:30 p.m. Oct. 7, Baxter walked up the stairs of Universal Mortgage & Finance, near a new retail-residential development.

He shot Kertesz in the chest and Snow in the shoulder, and walked back out the door, police said. The whole thing took less than two minutes.

He drove his silver-colored Dodge truck to a nearby Rite Aid parking lot, where an off-duty police officer found his body.

Patricia Cleary, a lawyer for Universal Mortgage & Finance, declined to comment on the case.

Snow was at the office visiting Kertesz, a high school classmate. Snow survived the gunshot wound. He could not be reached for comment.

Kathy Kiessling, the victim's sister, said Kertesz knew Baxter. Kertesz had taken his processor and Baxter to a Washington Redskins game and had gone with them to have drinks.

Last week, nearly 1,000 people went to Kertesz's wake in Clinton, and traffic backed up for miles for his funeral procession in Waldorf, Kiessling said.

"He's had friends trying to buy houses, their spouse's credit was not good enough or their credit was not good enough, and Kenny actually co-signed the mortgage," McWilliams said. "He did that many, many times."

McWilliams said he also offered jobs to his friends and kept in touch with old friends. He would have turned 44 this Saturday.

Kiessling said Kertesz loved her children, taking them out now and then to eat or to go shopping.

One woman whom Kiessling met at her brother's wake Wednesday had been one of Kertesz's tenants.

"She told me, `Your brother was my landlord for seven years and I was struggling, but he never raised the rent. And when I couldn't pay, he would tell me not to worry about it,'" Kiessling said. "And then when she wanted to buy a house, he helped her get the mortgage to buy a house. He was doing that for people all the time. ... Just helping them. He was a very dear man."

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

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