A former office manager for a Glen Burnie dentist who was fatally beaten in 2006 has been charged with murdering him, prosecutors said Tuesday. A relative of hers also has been charged.
Shontay Joyner-Hickman, 35, was arrested Monday night at her home in the 700 block of N. Kenwood Ave. in Baltimore by Anne Arundel County police and ordered held without bail Tuesday. She and Dante Jeter, 23, were indicted Friday in the death of Albert Woonho Ro. Jeter had already been jailed in Baltimore to await trial on a different murder charge in the city.
The indictment of Joyner-Hickman and Jeter on charges of first-degree and second-degree murder, burglary, robbery, attempted robbery, and conspiracy to commit burglary was announced Tuesday.
Ro, 51, who was widely known in the area's Korean community, was found beaten to death the night of Sept. 26, 2006, in his office in the Chatham Executive Office Park on Crain Highway. His face was so badly bludgeoned that he was barely recognizable. His family had called police to his office that night because he did not come home or respond to phone calls for hours.
"They will be sad again," Charles Kim, Ro's brother-in-law, said Tuesday, speaking for the Ro family. "They are feeling relief, feeling angry and refreshing painful memories." Later, he said word of the indictments is bringing the family a sense of justice, but also "brings us back to square one, sadness." The joy of a recent wedding of one of Ro's sons was tempered by tears because the groom's father was sorely missed, he said.
Authorities declined to discuss a motive for the killing, though last year police said cold case detectives were not investigating anything sinister in Ro's lifestyle, nor did he seem to have professional problems.
"The indictment includes charges of burglary and robbery, and I think those charges speak for themselves," said Kristin Fleckenstein, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office. She also said the two defendants are related, but not closely.
Joyner-Hickman, who had been employed at Ro's Lutherville and Glen Burnie offices, was suspected by Ro's family, whose members told police about their suspicions. Shortly before Ro was slain, Ann Moore, Kim's secretary and a patient of Ro, received a letter about an unpaid bill, even though she had paid it, Kim said.
"My secretary never missed a payment. Then she got a letter telling her to pay or it will go to a collection agency. My secretary was shocked. She went to him," Kim said, telling him her payment must have been stolen. "I'm sure somebody already told him. When my secretary called, he sounded surprised but like he already knew."
In 2008, a Baltimore judge gave Joyner-Hickman probation before judgment for misdemeanor theft and ordered her to serve one year of unsupervised probation. Prosecutors dropped charges of conspiracy to forge documents and conducting a theft scheme, according to court records. No one answered the door at Joyner-Hickman's home Tuesday.
Jeter, formerly of the 3700 block of E. Pratt St., is scheduled to go on trial Monday on a first-degree murder charge in Baltimore. He was arrested in June 2009 on charges that he fatally shot Tyrone Freeman, 25, of the 4800 block of Frankford Ave. on May 4, 2008. Last year, he was convicted of a drug charge in Baltimore.
Members of Ro's family spent much of Tuesday fielding phone calls as word of the arrests spread through the area's Korean community.
"I am so glad it is resolving this way. He and his entire family have been very prominent people our Korean community for a long time, and very prominent in the Korean Christian church," said David Han, former president of the Korean Society of Maryland. Han recalled his friend as a man whose life centered on church, family and his dental practice.
Ro's parents immigrated to the Baltimore area from South Korea with their four children in 1970. He received a dental degree from the University of Maryland, served briefly in the Air Force and then opened a practice in Lutherville, with a satellite office in Glen Burnie. He had been divorced and remarried and had been active in churches in Montgomery and Howard counties.
Ro's workday routine was to close his office to patients around 5 p.m., stay to finish paperwork and arrive home by 7 p.m., according to his family. But by 9 p.m. the night of his death nearly four years ago, his wife, Susan, was frantic.
Later that evening, Susan Ro met relatives and police in the office park and brought her husband's office key. Police entered to find a mess, with papers strewn everywhere, and Ro dead in a back room. No early leads panned out despite an offer of a $12,000 cash reward, $10,000 of it put up by the family and withdrawn by them when it failed to yield results. The case was among the first given to county cold case detectives when the small unit was restarted in 2008.
In a prepared statement, Arundel's State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee praised the "tenacity and dedication" of the investigators, John Gajda and Robert Cremen, and the squad's close work with Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.
"These detectives displayed compassion while they aggressively investigated the case and sought justice on behalf of the victim and his family," Police Chief James Teare Sr. said.
Sun reporter Peter Hermann contributed to this article.
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