Harford homicides drop

5 recorded so far in 2007, compared with 9 all of last year

December 30, 2007|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

Harford County experienced a decline in homicides in 2007, with a total of five recorded as of late Friday, including three in Edgewood.

All of the victims were male, with the youngest a 7-week-old infant who was shaken in an Abingdon apartment.

The number of homicides was a slight decrease from the nine in 2006.

"I've seen homicide rates go up and down," said Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane. "I'd like to think with strategies, we'll be successful in bringing them down. It's impossible to live anywhere today where you won't have a homicide of some type."

The first homicide of 2007 occurred Jan. 1, when Walter A. Overton, 20, was shot in Edgewood. His body was found in a flowerbed at a home in the 400 block of Meadowood Drive. Sheriff's deputies say they believe the gunman is dead, but are awaiting DNA results to confirm, said Sgt. Christina Presberry, spokeswoman for Harford County Sheriff's Office.

In April, social workers discovered a 7-week-old infant, Seth Mosely, lying unresponsive in his crib in an Abingdon apartment. The baby was malnourished, hemorrhaging and suffered optic nerve damage as a result of being shaken, investigators said.

The baby died and his parents, Richard and Giovanna Mosely, who were described in court testimony as mentally disabled, were charged with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree child abuse. The Moselys' roommate, Daniel Evan Reilly, also was indicted by a grand jury.

In August, homicides took place on three consecutive weekends. The first occurred when Samuel David Horne, 25, was shot six times in the 1800 block of Brookside Drive in Edgewood. His death triggered a community outcry.

Four suspects have been charged in that case, including Sean Nelson Smith, whose first-degree murder trial starts Jan. 7.

After Horne's murder, the sheriff held a series of community meetings, listening to residents' concerns about their neighborhoods. Deputies were dispatched on foot patrol to Brookside Drive and police began a warrant sweep in the area.

"That's when we switched gears," Bane said. "Not that we weren't dealing with it before, but it was a drastic switch in that community."

The next weekend, Robert Donte Hemphill, 26, was beaten to death at a motel near Aberdeen in the 1300 block of U.S. 40. Hemphill was found on the floor of his room at the Keyser Motel with the door open. He died of blunt-force injuries to the upper body. Police have not identified a suspect in that case.

During the last weekend of August, a Joppa man, David Arnold Byrd, 30, was found with a stab wound in the torso in a parking lot in Edgewood. He was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Deputies say they have identified a suspect in the case.

Bane said the stepped-up policing since August has helped.

"We have done a lot in that area of the county, since the Sammy Horne homicide," he said. "We're very concentrated in the area and it has made a difference."

Rudolph Johnson, an Edgewood pastor at Restoration World Ministries, said he sees improvements in the community. His church held a community walk in early December, calling for an end to guns and violence.

"It's a little bit safer, because first of all, you have the officers making themselves visible, and we just had a summit at Edgewood High School trying to do something about the crime," he said.

Bane says he hopes to get 10 new surveillance cameras operating in Edgewood in 2008. In mid-January, the sheriff's office is meeting with the Guardian Angels, a volunteer community foot patrol organization, about the possibility of coming to Edgewood.

"Harford County has been fortunate in terms of the number of homicides," Bane said. "We're low in comparison to other jurisdictions. I am not happy with that and would rather have none at all. But I'm realistic. We're going to have homicides."

The Maryland State Police handled two deaths in Harford in 2007 that were not classified homicides. In June, troopers investigated the death of Robert Donald Augustine, 57, who was found in his Perryman apartment on the 500 block of Michaelsville Road and classified it as a suspicious death.

Troopers also investigated the death of Bradley Wayne Goff, 20, who died from injuries suffered in a street fight. The county state's attorney's office decided not to file charges after determining that the other man acted in self defense.

madison.park@baltsun.com

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