The 25-year-old Pasadena man who allegedly shot and killed his mother over the weekend had been ordered seven years ago not to have any contact with her or his step-father after he was charged with "false imprisonment" and convicted on a second-degree assault offense involving them, court records show.
Despite that criminal history, Zachary Neiman, 25, was living with his parents on the leafy 100 block of Beacrane Road Saturday night when, police say, he fired a shotgun twice at his mother as she sat on their living room couch.
Rae Bajus, the suspect's 53-year old mother, was struck both times in the upper body and pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center, said Lt. David D. Waltemeyer, a spokesman with the Anne Arundel County police.
The suspect's stepfather, David Bajus, was sitting with his wife when the shooting occurred. He escaped to a neighbor's house and called 911, police said. Bajus could not be reached Monday; he told The Washington Post on Sunday that he was "devastated."
Police have not given a motive for the shooting, but Waltemeyer said Neiman's mother and his stepfather had been concerned about "his mental status" in recent days. Waltemeyer said there was no physical fight before the shooting.
Neiman was calm and polite at a brief bail review hearing yesterday in Anne Arundel County District Court - at one point saying that he didn't want to "offend" his court-appointed attorney when he disagreed with her recommendation on a legal matter. District Court Judge James W. Dryden ordered him held without bond.
Little information was available yesterday about Neiman's earlier assault conviction that involved his mother and stepfather. That offense occurred in 1999 and the Anne Arundel District Court shreds older records. A surviving computerized file shows that Neiman was committed briefly to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and that the court required him to have alcohol and drug testing, submit to psychiatric evaluation recommended and take all prescribed medication, as well as submit to any anger management program recommended. It is not clear if, and to what extent, these recommendations were followed.
Circuit court records on a separate 2001 marijuana distribution conviction included multiple handwritten letters where Neiman showed concern and affection for his family, and pleaded with a judge to let him out of jail so he could be with them.
He wrote to Circuit Judge Philip T. Caroom in 2001 and said he was attending narcotics anonymous programs and "trying my best to save for college and to better myself so my dreams become realities and my parents can stop getting food from the church."
In a typewritten letter to Caroom, he said: "If you let me out early, I will be able to go home for Christmas with my family on house arrest. ... I do not want to die in jail. I'll do charity, volunteer work, go to church, rescue fire people, donate organs for research. Thanks for your consideration. May I please get house arrest or early release."
Neiman was released from jail in March 2005, but he violated the terms of his probation and there was a warrant out for his arrest on the night of his mother's shooting, court records show.
Rae Bajus regularly attended the Severna Park Evangelical Presbyterian Church with her husband, who is a deacon there. Church officials referred questions about the killing to Barry Smith, an executive pastor with the church. He did not reply to messages left at the church.
Doug Smith, who knows the family from church, attended the bail review hearing and called Rae Bajus "a delightful lady." When asked how her husband was doing, he said "steady."
Johanna Barnes, 72, who lives across the street and a few doors down from the Bajus home, said she'd known the family for about eight years and recalled Rae Bajus as a sweet, pretty woman who often stopped by to chat. When Barnes' husband died five months ago, Rae Bajus offered to cook a meal and suggested that her son could help out with some yard work.
Barnes said Rae was ill, and had had an operation on her spine. She chocked up when talking about the death of her neighbor.
"You wouldn't think in the suburbs you'd get something like this," Barnes said.
After the 9:30 p.m. shooting, Barnes said, firetrucks, ambulances and police cars lined her gravel road and blocked the entrance. At one point, Barnes went outside, and she said an official yelled: "Lady, get in that house as fast as you can."
Police that night used a helicopter, more than a dozen officers, and several dogs to search the thickly wooded area near the home. They arrested Neiman at 10:49 p.m. in the area of Belgarden Lane and Swift Road, Waltemeyer said.
A neighbor later found the shotgun in the woods, Waltemeyer said.
"She was a very lovely woman," said Robin J. Mullins, a next door neighbor. "She didn't deserve to die this way."