Electric sign on shoulder of I-70 seeks clues in homicide

May 09, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

More jarring than a standard traffic or road-closure advisory, the "Homicide Here 5-4-06" electric sign grabs the attention of drivers heading east on Interstate 70 in Frederick County.

The sign is on the shoulder of the highway, where the body of a woman was found early Thursday in Mount Airy, near Route 27. The fully clothed woman's body, with a head injury and a slashed throat, was discovered a few hundred yards from a truck stop, said state police in Frederick.

Through fingerprints, police identified the victim as Dusty N. Shuck, 24, of Silver City, N.M. Shuck was last seen in New Mexico in late April, police said.

Missing-person reports on Shuck were filed by medical personnel in Tucson, Ariz., on Feb. 28, said Sgt. Mark Robinson, spokesman for the Tucson Police Department. Shuck - whose mother described her as schizophrenic and suicidal in those reports - failed to show up for a mental health counseling program in Tucson, Robinson said.

According to the reports, Shuck's mother also said her daughter had been picked up twice in March by authorities in Live Oak, Calif., and taken to shelters there, Robinson said.

As the state police homicide unit heads to the Southwest to investigate the killing, the "Homicide Here" sign will remain on I-70 throughout the week. Police are hoping that witnesses will come forward with information.

Because the crime scene lacked forensic evidence, Scott L. Rolle, Frederick County's state's attorney, said he believes the killing probably occurred elsewhere.

"In a sense, we may be on a nationwide search for the person who did this," Rolle said.

Rolle said he had never seen police use highway signs to investigate a homicide in Frederick County.

"It's a shot in the dark, but one we felt was worth taking," Rolle said.

Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, a state police spokesman, said police generally broadcast overhead or roadside electric messages when investigating incidents such as hit-and-run fatal crashes.

"We haven't used them for a homicide in recent memory," Rouse said. "It's unusual. But we'll leave it up for a week."

The portable sign is being used because that stretch of I-70 lacks mounted, overhead signs.

The last time an electric message was used during a homicide investigation was in January on Interstate 95 in Howard County, according to Kellie Boulware, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration.

The remains of a Prince George's man were found scattered across a quarter-mile stretch of the interstate highway, after his body was struck repeatedly by several drivers, police said. The sign asked for eyewitness information.

The body was later identified as that of Antonio Orozco Martinez, 26, of Landover.

Anyone with information about Shuck or the disposal of her body should contact the Frederick barracks of the state police, 301-644- 4150.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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