Teen held in `senseless' killing

14-year-old charged as adult in shooting of woman along Northeast block

October 03, 2006|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,sun reporter

A 14-year-old boy has been charged in last week's killing of a 67-year-old woman who was shot in the head as she walked from a bus to her home in Northeast Baltimore - which police yesterday called a "senseless" slaying.

Devon T. Richardson, who stands 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 80 pounds, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, assault and using a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence in the Sept. 26 shooting of Janice M. Letmate on Biddison Lane in the Waltherson neighborhood.

Baltimore police Col. Fred H. Bealefeld III, chief of detectives, did not discuss a motive for the killing but said at a news conference yesterday that there does not appear to be any prior conflict between Letmate and Richardson. She was not robbed.

"This case, again, was a senseless tragedy," Bealefeld said. "I don't want to get too much into the motive because frankly, it would be pretty speculative as to what was on Mr. Richardson's mind that would compel him to take Ms. Letmate's life.

"This case really epitomizes the things that are wrong that we have to deal with," the police commander said, describing the search for witnesses. "And that is people indiscriminately getting involved in violence and having weapons available to them. The community really got behind us in this case, and we went out and located people who were in proximity to this senseless tragedy."

Police said they arrested Richardson on Sunday in the 5100 block of Belair Road, near his home. He was being held without bail yesterday at the Central Booking and Intake Center. Investigators said they have not recovered a weapon used in the shooting, but recovered two shell casings from a nearby alley several hours after the evening shooting. Investigators said it was likely that Letmate was shot with a .22-caliber rifle.

Bealefeld said at the news conference that Richardson has a juvenile arrest history, but would not elaborate.

Richardson is the 15th juvenile age 17 or younger charged with murder this year and the second 14-year-old, according to city crime statistics compiled by the city state's attorney's office. Zachary James, 15, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder late last month.

Friends and family of Letmate said she has a daughter and a son. The family, through a lawyer, declined to comment.

A woman at Richardson's address who identified herself as his grandmother said only that she was leaving things in God's hand.

Letmate worked for Tydings & Rosenberg, a downtown law firm, where she was a receptionist, employees of the firm said. A tribute to Letmate remains on the company's Web site.

William Sammons, a former managing partner in the firm, said he knew Letmate well and described her as being an extraordinary person. "She was a receptionist, but she did so much more," Sammons said.

Marta Pola, who no longer works for the firm but had been Letmate's supervisor and had hired her about 16 years ago, remembered her as an institution at the firm, always eager to help organize an event.

"She was the soul," Pola said. "You couldn't know Janice without loving her. She never had a negative word to say about someone. Every day she came to work dressed perfectly."

Pola said losing Letmate is made worse by the circumstances surrounding her death. A friend walking Letmate to her home ran for help after she collapsed, and paramedics eventually took the victim her to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center where she was pronounced dead a little more than an hour later.

A doctor noticed the wound in the back of her head and called police.

"I don't know anyone who has died like this," Pola said. "It is so much more difficult to accept. It shouldn't have happened this way."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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