Deadly triangle

In quiet college town, shooting leaves one student dead, one jailed, many questions

  • The Frostburg women's lacrosse team joins the school's basketball team on the field for a moment of silence before their game on Tuesday night. It was done in memory of Brandon Carroll, a Frostburg student-athlete from Waldorf, who was shot to death early Sunday morning following an off-campus party. Also wounded in the shooting was his teammate, Ellis Hartridge from Washington. The suspect in the shooting is 21-year-old Tyrone Brent Hall of Glen Burnie, who is also a student at Frostburg.
The Frostburg women's lacrosse team joins the school's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Doug…)
April 25, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

FROSTBURG — There are no outward signs of tragedy at 68 E. College Ave. A couple of pizza boxes are stacked on the porch; a crushed beer can lies nearby. The blood has been cleaned from the front of the two-story house across the street from Frostburg State University.

But for four students who had made their separate ways from Baltimore and Washington to this pastoral college town in Western Maryland, the explosive confrontation during the early morning of April 18 has changed their lives forever.

There is the high school soccer standout from Glen Burnie who had struggled to catch on at a succession of small colleges. The Baltimore woman with whom he tangled at an off-campus party. The basketball player from Washington with whom she had a tumultuous, sometimes violent relationship. And the teammate from Waldorf who joined him last Sunday morning on an outing that would prove fatal.

Now Brandon Carroll, a sophomore forward for the Division III Bobcats, is dead. Classmate Tyrone Hall, who dreamed of international soccer stardom, faces life without parole. And this campus of 5,200 students nestled in the mountains of Allegany County is left with unanswered — perhaps unanswerable — questions.

"Everything that I've heard, everything that I knew about them, these were not violent people," Frostburg State University President Jonathan C. Gibralter said last week.

"They were from very loving and supportive families, very kind," he said. "The thing that shocks us the most is that we don't know where this came from."

Students packed the arena in which Carroll once competed for a candlelight vigil last week to honor his memory. Gibralter's voice had choked with emotion as he spoke to a crowd that included Carroll's mother and stepfather. But after the service, Gibralter expressed compassion for Hall.

"What would compel somebody to pull out a gun?" the university president asked. "I can only imagine how much fear he must have felt at that moment."

Police and campus sources say the confrontation grew out of an altercation between Hall and former Frostburg student Patrice Britton. But it appears to have had its genesis in a relationship that began months earlier, on another campus, hundreds of miles away.

Britton, a 20-year-old from the Gwynn Oak neighborhood of West Baltimore, came to Frostburg last spring from St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C. It was there that she started dating fellow student Ellis Hartridge Jr., a near-neighbor from Washington.

The relationship continued after she transferred, and last fall, Hartridge followed Britton to Frostburg. The couple shared an off-campus apartment; Hartridge, 21, enrolled in the college as a junior, joined the basketball team and worked his way into the starting lineup.

But while Hartridge was establishing himself on the court, he was having trouble at home with Britton. In early December, she filed a protective order against him, alleging that he had been physically violent with her. Three days later, he filed a similar request, making similar allegations.

Britton admitted kneeing Hartridge after being pushed and choked, according to court documents. He admitted pushing her after she slapped him in the mouth and hit him in the head with a liquor bottle.

Frostburg coach Webb Hatch said Hartridge told him of his domestic difficulties around the middle of December.

"He had come to me and said he had some issues, that ‘this young lady and I are not getting along,' " Hatch said. "They had made decisions to part company. He didn't tell me what her name was. I didn't want to know what her name was."

Hartridge would eventually file a police complaint against Britton. He told them she had damaged more than a dozen T-shirts and a sweater of his.

"She broke into my room and cut holes," he wrote in the complaint. "The holes were cut out right on the left side of each T-shirt where my heart would be."

Britton was charged with fourth-degree burglary, malicious destruction of property, violating the protective order and harassment.

Hall's dream

Less clear is Britton's relationship with Hall.

A graduate of Mount St. Joseph, the 21-year-old Hall had shown promise in soccer. Playing on high-level club teams in Maryland, he traveled across the country and overseas; a YouTube video shows him with a Bethesda club team on a tour of England.

One former coach said Hall obsessed about being an international star, to the point of referring to himself on his Facebook page as Tyrinho, in the manner of the single-named stars of Brazil.

"He was like a lot of kids, he had illusions of being a little better than he was," said Chris Barrett, an assistant coach at Division I Radford University in Virginia, where Hall worked out with the team while attending school there last spring.

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