A Kingsville man has been arrested in the attacks on two women who were left for dead along train tracks near Aberdeen, crimes that occurred just before two other women were reported missing and were later found killed in the same area.
Driving a gray Dodge Neon with bedsheets on the seats, Charles Eugene Burns picked up two women in separate incidents near Aberdeen last month and took them to secluded locations near train tracks, police said. The 34-year-old suspect allegedly choked one until she lost consciousness, and the other until blood vessels in her eyes burst. Both victims survived.
State police and the Harford sheriff's office are jointly investigating the deaths of the other women, whose bodies were found this month near train tracks about six miles from where the nonfatal attacks occurred. Officials from both agencies declined to comment on whether Burns, who is being held without bond at the county's detention center, is considered a suspect in those killings. Police also would not disclose details about how the women were killed.
"The investigators involved believe the release of any details may be detrimental to the investigation," said Sgt. Russell Newell, a state police spokesman. "It would appear there are similarities, but we don't want to speculate because of the nature of the investigation."
Burns, whose last known address was in the 12100 block of Belair Road in Kingsville, was arrested Thursday by Harford sheriff's deputies and charged with assault in connection with one of the attacks. He subsequently was charged with attempted first-degree murder in the other attack.
According to court records, Burns has spent time in prison for numerous incidents, including violating a protective order against an Edgewood woman who said he was harassing her. In that incident, Harford County District Court Associate Judge Mimi R. Cooper ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
"He has had problems with anger, and I am aware that he has a learning disability," said Craig DeRan, a Bel Air attorney who has represented Burns in previous cases. "But I'm surprised to hear of the [new] allegations."
The two women who survived the attacks are a mother and her daughter, according to a police report, and said they had been picked up three weeks apart and attacked by the suspect. Both told police they were prostitutes, according to the report.
The mother, who is referred to in the report by the initials "C.C.," said Burns drove her to St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery, where he allegedly choked her until she lost consciousness. She said she awoke and discovered items had been taken from her purse, including a birth certificate, Social Security card and photographs.
Describing an alleged attack three weeks earlier, the daughter, referred to as "R.C.," told police the suspect took her to a secluded location and sexually assaulted and choked her. The attack caused blood vessels in her eyes to burst, as well as severe bruising on her neck, and she told police she believed she was going to die.
Lt. James Eyler, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said deputies located the women after initiating an investigation last week. The victims provided a description of Burns' vehicle and his license plate number.
Police have released few details about the women, whose bodies were found in southeastern Harford County this month, though a sheriff's office spokesman said police concluded from the investigation that they were involved in prostitution.
The body of Sheila Ann Turner, 42, of Aberdeen was discovered June 2 in a field in Perryman. She had been reported missing May 26. Two weeks later, a body found by state troopers on Oakington Road near U.S. 40 in Havre de Grace was identified as Lillian Abramowicz Phelps, 43, of Elkton. She was last seen May 30.
Phelps' mother, Jadwiga Abramowicz, 76, said her daughter was with friends in Aberdeen that night and left early. Abramowicz dismissed the notion that her daughter was a prostitute.
Neither Phelps nor Turner had been charged with prostitution.
Friends and family of Burns could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a bail review report from his 2002 violation of the protective order provides a glimpse into his life at that time.
In the report, he lists previous battles with drug and alcohol abuse, and is described as being treated for depression. His marital status is listed as "separated" in the report, which also includes that he had been laid off three weeks earlier from a job as a laborer.Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org