Suburban face of murder

Outside the city, homicide is less common but more personal

December 31, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

In a violent September weekend in Baltimore County, two killings occurred within hours of each other - and both shooters were dead before investigators arrived at the scene.

The suspect in each case was a former partner who, after shooting his victim, turned the gun on himself.

As police officials finalize homicide numbers for 2007, they say the two September homicides demonstrate the nature of murder in the region's suburbs, where killings often involve people who know each other - a contrast to the drug-fueled, impersonal violence racking urban areas.

"I think if you're a citizen in the county and you hear that an individual is killed on the street, you begin to worry about yourself and your family," Baltimore County police Chief James W. Johnson said. "Whereas, if it's a domestic homicide, the average individual likely would assume the chances of them being victimized by that same suspect are relatively low."

As Baltimore continues to struggle with a city homicide rate that ranks among the highest in the nation, the number of homicides in the suburbs has again paled in comparison.

As of yesterday, 37 people had been slain in Baltimore County this year - two more than were killed in the county in 2006. Elsewhere in the region, police have recorded 21 homicides in Anne Arundel County; five each in Harford and Howard counties; and two in Carroll. Those numbers could change as local departments finalize statistics for the state's annual crime report.

The 70 homicides overall in the counties compare with 73 recorded in all of 2006. By comparison, 282 people have been killed in Baltimore City this year.

"A disproportionate number of people killed in Baltimore City are drug-related crimes, in drug-market areas," said Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore.

By contrast, the suburbs around the city probably contain fewer large concentrations of poverty where drug markets thrive, Ross said.

Even in the suburbs, killings can be clustered in certain crime-ridden areas.

Most crime in Baltimore County occurs in densely populated areas on the county's eastern and western fringes, county police said.

In Harford County, three of the five homicides this year occurred in Edgewood, in the southeastern part of the county. The proximity to Interstate 95 and U.S. 40 and the concentration of low-income households make it easier for a local drug trade to take hold, officials there said.

"I seriously doubt they [drug dealers] would move into Norrisville, because there are more cows than people," Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane said. "The factors are not favorable for drug trade, as it is in Edgewood."

He added, "There are pockets of poverty. It doesn't take anyone any time to figure out. A lot of people packed into a small, impoverished, government-subsidized area - you're going to attract a criminal element."

Many homicides in the suburbs involve people who know each other.

In Baltimore County, 14 of the 37 homicides this year were domestic-related - involving people of the same household or closely related to each other, such as a married couple. In seven other homicides, the victim and suspect were acquaintances, police said.

The murder-suicides in Baltimore County in September were carried out by men who showed up at the home of a former partner, police say.

On a Friday night, Jeffrey C. Jacobsen had just picked up his two young sons from the Timonium home that he once shared with his estranged wife, Jessica M. Jacobsen, when he got out of the car and shot her to death. He then shot himself, police said.

Hours later, in Essex, 27-year-old Carl E. Locklear killed his former girlfriend's current boyfriend, Eugene G. Rossmark, before shooting himself, police said. He later died of his injuries.

Baltimore County's highest-profile homicide in 2007 was linked to a killing in Baltimore City.

Carl Stanley Lackl, 38, was shot to death outside his Rosedale home in July, days before he was to testify as a witness in a city murder trial. Police charged the defendant in that trial, Patrick Albert Byers, with ordering Lackl's execution from jail to prevent him from testifying.

Five others - including a teenager accused of firing the shots that killed Lackl - were charged in Lackl's death.

Baltimore County's youngest homicide victim this year was Julian David Woody, who was 15 days old when he was beaten to death in Dundalk in February, allegedly by his father.

At least 28 of the county's homicide cases have been cleared, according to a police spokesman.

Johnson, who took over as the county's police chief this summer after Terrence B. Sheridan left to become superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said the county is focusing on efforts to reduce domestic violence, and he pointed to the appointment in each precinct of an officer to handle such cases.

Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman, pointed out that the department has reduced other types of crimes this year including robberies, which are down more than 28 percent from last year.

"When we cut robberies like we have, that is a much more important trend for the average person walking down the street," Toohey said.

Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Melissa Harris and Madison Park contributed to this article.

Homicide totals by county, year

County 2005 2006 2007* 5-year avg. **

Anne Arundel 16 23 21 19

Baltimore 40 35 37 33

Carroll 2 1 2 2

Harford 2 9 5 5

Howard 4 5 5 5

*Totals through 12/27/07

**Five-year average, through 2006

[Source: Maryland State Police and county and local police departments]

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