Man charged in death of Hamm's stepdaughter

Nicole Sesker was found strangled outside vacant house

November 07, 2008|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,dick.irwin@baltsun.com

A Northwest Baltimore man has been arrested and charged with the strangulation of Nicole Sesker, the 39-year-old stepdaughter of former city Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm, whose body was found June 27 outside a vacant house in the 3500 block of W. Garrison Ave. in Pimlico, said a Police Department spokesman.

Joseph Antonio Barnes, 35, of the 4900 block of Lanier Ave. was arrested about 10 a.m. yesterday at an undisclosed downtown location on a warrant charging him with Sesker's death, said Agent Donny Moses, the spokesman. Circuit Court records indicate Barnes, who used the alias Joseph Bonds, was to have appeared in court yesterday morning for a jury trial on drug charges. Police declined to say whether he was arrested at the courthouse in the 100 block of N. Calvert St.

Moses said DNA evidence led to Barnes' arrest, but he declined to say whether the DNA came from Sesker's body, her clothing or another source.

Moses said the primary investigator in the case, Detective Todd Corrivau, worked hard to make the arrest. He said the detective traced Barnes' DNA to a police database. That match identified Barnes as a prime suspect in Sesker's murder.

Barnes was being held at Central Booking and Intake Center pending a bail review hearing by a District Court judge. He said Sesker and Barnes lived in the same area of Northwest Baltimore but apparently had no long-term relationship.

Sesker, a woman who struggled for years with drug abuse and prostitution, was profiled, along with her stepfather, in an August 2005 front-page article in The New York Times titled, "Police Chief Sees Drug Toll With Father's Eyes."

When found, Sesker was dressed in a T-shirt and flip-flops, with just a shawl tied around her waist and a scarf covering her head. An autopsy ruled her death a strangulation.

According to news reports after her death, Sesker was a star athlete at Woodlawn High School and remained close to her stepfather. The pair often exchanged letters, but there were times when they lost contact.

The former police commissioner was heartbroken when Sesker's body was found, said former Police Department spokesman Matt Jablow in June.

People who knew Sesker said she used the back porch of an abandoned house in the 5100 block of Cordelia Ave. in Pimlico as shelter. For privacy and protection from the weather, they said, Sesker put up curtains and cardboard.

Mayor Sheila Dixon responded to the arrest in an e-mail last night. "Nothing can fill the void of a lost child, but I hope this arrest will bring some small measure of comfort to Commissioner Hamm and his wife," she wrote.

She also praised the detectives and crime lab technicians who worked on the case.

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