The campus grounds of Cheltenham, about six miles south of Andrews Air Force Base, are sprawling, set back hundreds of yards from the main road. Bales of hay dotted the snow-covered fields Thursday, and there appeared to be little movement around the grounds.
At the campus' south end, a football field and several basketball hoops surrounded a series of small buildings, some of which appeared abandoned, with pastel green and yellow painted boards in the windows. One building had a sign that reads "Here and Now, Get Your Jumpstart to the Future."
Just beyond the barbed-wire fences is the Crooms Vocational School, which recently opened in a series of buildings that once housed a publicly funded facility for troubled teenagers. A group of young men joked and tossed snowballs at one another, while others helped shovel snow from the sidewalk.
Jervis Bryant, a 43-year-old teacher at Crooms, said the students learn electrical, carpentry, and landscaping skills to prepare them for careers. He said he has never felt unsafe working in the area.
"There's no safety fears at all," said Bryant, leaning on a shovel. "Some of these guys who attend here were there [at Cheltenham] last year, and everybody knows each other."
Nearby residents expressed similar feelings about living near the facility. Darrin Warren, 45, said when he first moved to the area nine years ago, there was a "jailbreak" that triggered an alarm. But he said there haven't been any significant fears since then.
"If they're looking to escape, they're trying to go far, not close by," Warren said.
With new home developments sprouting up in the area, with prices starting in the $400,000 range, another resident said she liked that the spacious facility helps keep some of the area's rural charm.
Wheeling made the long commute from Bel Air to Cheltenham each day and never complained, said Jahi-Wade, the math and science teacher who taught with Wheeling until 2006. "For her, it wasn't a job, it was an experience," she said.
That devotion was just part of a broader commitment to her work. Wheeling was "the only teacher any of us had ever known with the public library on speed-dial."
Wheeling's next-door neighbor, Turner, 86, said Wheeling's family bought the house in 1959 and that Hannah Wheeling spent her teen years there before moving away to get married. She later divorced, remarried and divorced again, he said, and was single at the time of her death.
Wheeling moved back to the house about four years ago to care for her elderly father, who died at age 93, Turner said.
He described Wheeling as an "exceptionally thoughtful neighbor: After one of the blizzards, I looked out the window and saw somebody shoveling my walk and driveway. It was Hannah. She did it because she knew I can't anymore."
Turner, who said he regularly called Wheeling to check in on her, spoke with her just last week, and she was "very cheerful, as usual."
"I greeted her the way I always greeted her: I said, 'Is this my sweetheart?' And she said, 'Yes, this is your sweetheart.' "
Turner said he learned of Wheeling's death when his son, who had seen a televised report, called with the news.
"I'm shocked. It's just a horrible situation," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Julie Bykowicz, Jonathan Pitts and Amy Davis contributed to this article.
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