Drifter charged in 5 city killings

Police link slayings of elderly residents over six-year span

December 20, 2005|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

The body of Sadie L. Mack, 78, was found in the bedroom of her West Baltimore home in May, her hands bound. Carlton Crawford, 82, was beaten to death in August in his room at an apartment complex for the disabled. Lydia R. Wingfield, 78, was strangled 10 days later in her home.

Yesterday, city police said that one man - a 34-year-old drifter with a lengthy criminal record - is responsible for a disturbing series of killings of mostly elderly residents of West and Northwest Baltimore since 1999 - victims that authorities described as "defenseless."

Raymont Hopewell has been charged with five counts of murder, and police say they are investigating other cases. He also has been charged with five counts of attempted murder stemming from two home invasions in September.

Police began exploring the series of killings after Hopewell was arrested in September as a suspect in Crawford's death.

Detectives said they linked the man further with the help of a phone call that Wingfield made to her son shortly before she was killed, which implicated the suspect through his nickname, as well as DNA and other forensic evidence.

Maj. Richard Fahlteich, commander of the homicide unit, said police "have absolutely, positively indisputable evidence that [Hopewell] is the sole suspect."

One woman was killed in 1999, another in 2002 and three more people this year. The victims' ages ranged from 60 to 88. The man was beaten; the others were strangled. Police said they were not sure how the killer got into most of the homes.

Fahlteich said police were still investigating possible motives. Some cases might have involved the theft of money or possessions, but the reasons for other killings are not clear, the major said.

Hopewell, who has been held in jail since his arrest in September, was taken from city police headquarters yesterday and returned to the Central Booking and Intake Center, where he is being held without bail.

He wore a gray long-sleeve shirt, blue jeans and white sneakers. He kept his head down and did not respond to questions from reporters as three detectives escorted him to a police van.

According to court records, Hopewell has lived at 11 different addresses over the past 13 years, including the same apartment building as one victim killed in 2002 - the Greenhill Apartments, a complex for the elderly and disabled, in the 2500 block of Violet Ave. in Park Heights.

His prior arrests include charges for drug possession, theft, burglary, battery and failure to appear in court.

Wingfield's son, Jerrold C. Wingfield, 36, said the family is relieved by the arrest. "We're gonna see this thing through, all the way to the end," he said. "He should get the fullest extent of the law, whatever the law deems he should get, he should get."

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said that prosecutors are pursuing the penalty of life without parole in one of two murder cases that they have reviewed.

Burns said she could not comment on whether the office would pursue the death penalty, saying that prosecutors still need to examine the three additional charges.

Police said the killings started six years ago:

Constance Willis, 60, was found dead in her home in the 1100 block of N. Ellamont Ave. in West Baltimore on Feb. 22, 1999. Little information was immediately available about Willis' case, and her relatives could not be located last night.

Sarah Shannon, 88, was found strangled in bedroom at the Greenhill Apartments on Nov. 30, 2002. At one time, Hopewell had listed the apartment building as his home address in court records, though it was unclear whether he lived in the building at the time of the Shannon's death.

Sadie L. Mack, a 78-year-old widow who was known as "Miss Sadie" to many in her Sandtown neighborhood, was found dead in her house in the 1600 block of N. Gilmor on May 27. The mother of seven grown children had lived alone after her husband's death three years ago, though her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren frequently visited her.

Her body was found by one of her sons in her first-floor bedroom. She had been strangled and her hands were bound, family members said. "She loved this neighborhood," Roy Mack, 50, one of her sons, told The Sun in June. "She never felt like she wasn't safe."

Carlton Crawford, 82, was found beaten on Aug. 21 in the Louis W. Foxwell Memorial Apartments for the handicapped in the 3700 block of Greenspring Ave., Northwest Baltimore. A security guard investigating a noise complaint found him on the floor of his room. He had lived there since the early 1980s and had no relatives, police said.

Police charging documents show that Crawford died from blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. Over the next several weeks, police said, they developed enough information to lead them to Hopewell, including finding a witness who identified the man - but knew him under the alias Kent Fisher - as a possible suspect in Crawford's homicide.

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