Man, 41, held in rapes, killings

Assaults were part of crime wave in 2003 and 2004

July 30, 2008|By Melissa Harris and Annie Linskey | Melissa Harris and Annie Linskey,Sun reporters

Baltimore police have charged a Gwynn Oak man with raping and killing a 15-year-old girl, raping and killing a prostitute, and raping and nearly killing another, according to police and court records obtained by The Sun.

The victims were among the victims of a series of killings and a dozen assaults in 2003 and 2004 that sparked concern among sex workers that they were being targeted. City police said at the time that they didn't think most of the killings were linked.

But with more killings in recent months, the Police Department has formed a small task force to investigate unsolved killings of women in the past 10 years. Among them are about a half-dozen stranglings; three of those victims have been identified as prostitutes.

Charging documents filed in the recent arrest say the woman who was killed and the woman who was injured were beaten in the head. The 15-year-old girl was strangled, authorities said.

William Vincent Brown, 41, of the 4800 block of Carmine Ave. has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree rape. He is being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

The suspect has previous convictions for drug possession and manufacturing, according to court records. Police arrested Brown on a drug offense in January 2004, three months before the 15-year-old girl was killed, but those charges were dropped because the arresting officers were named in an underground Stop Snitching video as corrupt, according to court documents. Both officers were later convicted in federal court of conspiring with a drug dealer.

Sterling Clifford, a Baltimore police spokesman, said detectives do not know whether Brown is connected to the recent stranglings of prostitutes. "Obviously, they will keep checking," he said. "There is DNA that has not been checked yet, so I wouldn't feel comfortable saying one way or the other."

An advocacy group for prostitutes, concerned about the killings in 2004, began posting leaflets in parts of the city warning them to stay away from a man described similarly by several victims, said Sidney Ford, founder and executive director of You Are Never Alone, a downtown outreach center for prostitutes.

"His was a particularly prominent description that was widely discussed four years ago," Ford said. "It kept coming back again and again. It brings back memories of a lot of traumatic stories and risky outreach operations."

Emma O'Hearn, one of the homicide victims, was a well-liked 25-year-old homeless woman who died in 2004 after seven months in a coma.

The victim who survived, a 36-year-old whose name The Sun is withholding because she is the victim of a sexual assault, was found in Leakin Park with severe head trauma and both of her ears "cut away" from her head, according to charging documents. It took her months to relearn how to walk and talk, a police source familiar with the investigation said.

The 15-year-old girl is not thought to have been a prostitute.

Since those deaths, Ford said, the surviving victim has helped other prostitutes "avoid" the man who attacked her.

"She spread the word about his description, his possible ways of approach and warned other women and girls away from him," said Ford, who lost touch with the woman about a year ago.

About 2 a.m. April 13, 2003, according to court records, a man picked up the 36-year-old woman in a burgundy vehicle and drove her to the 3500 block of Winterbourne Road in Leakin Park, where he forced her to the ground and raped her, the records say. The victim was found with severe head trauma and her ears severed. A rape examination was performed that day, and a DNA sample was linked to the suspect this month, according to court records.

O'Hearn was found unconscious June 6, 2003, about two months after the first victim was attacked, in Calverton Middle School's yard in the 1100 block of Whitmore Ave. She remained in a coma until she died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center on Jan. 22, 2004.

The 15-year-old girl, Antania Mills, was strangled in March 2004. Her body was found wrapped in bed linens and dumped in the 2500 block of Talbot Road. Two men who were arrested in that case were found not guilty by a jury. At the time, homicide Detective Irvin Bradley told The Sun that he was seeking a third man in the killing.

Detectives are trying to determine whether there is a connection between Brown and those two men, said a police source who requested anonymity because he did not have permission to talk about the case publicly.

The break in the case came Thursday after a DNA match was made with fluids collected from both homicide victims, the source said. On July 24, the day Brown was charged, the surviving victim identified him in a photo lineup as her assailant, according to court records.

The police source described Brown as "calculating" when detectives interviewed him. "Once he realized we had DNA, he realized there was no getting out of it," the source said. The source described Brown as a "predator."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Gus Sentementes contributed to this article.

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