Woman's abuse went unnoticed in apartment complex

Accused man described as brooding and unkempt; residents react with shock at brutality allegations

September 17, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Residents and managers of the Reisterstown apartment complex in which a young woman was imprisoned and abused for months said Friday they knew nothing of what had gone on in the apartment where she was held.

"Wow — that's strange, man," said Jerry Jackson, who since May has lived across the hall from the couple accused in the case. "I never heard a thing."

Police have charged Germaine A. Smith-Bey, 29, and Kimberly Stacy King, 37, with attempted murder, assault and false imprisonment. They are accused of keeping the 22-year-old woman tied up in a bathroom in their Brookebury Drive apartment for as long as nine months. Police said the suspects viciously beat the woman and stole her monthly disability payments.

Money was apparently the motivation for some of the couple's activities. One neighbor said Smith-Bey sometimes peddled CDs, and a member of the janitorial staff said the man had offered to sell her and another janitor the canned milk he received — apparently from a charitable organization — for his two children.

"We thought, 'Why doesn't he just give the milk to his children?' Especially the little boy — he's so thin," said the janitor, who asked to remain unidentified for fear of losing her job. She said Smith-Bey was surly and often unkempt, even when taking his older child to school, and that she sometimes saw him sitting on his second-floor balcony, brooding and smoking cigarettes.

"I didn't trust him," the woman said. "He just seemed like a strange person. I told my manager I didn't like to leave my cleaning cart where he could get to it."

Monthly rents at the complex, called The Preserve at Owings Crossing, range from $640 to $1,160. Managers said the 791 units there are inspected at least twice a year for things like mold and to replace HVAC filters. They said they were combing their records Friday to find out when the apartment in which the suspects lived was last visited by maintenance staff.

"It's possible that they moved her around," said Peter G. Larson, the regional manager for Chicago-based Waterton Residential, the complex's parent company, referring to the victim.

"It makes me disgusted to hear what happened," said Larson, who was visiting the site off Tarragon Road on Friday morning in response to news of the arrests. "It's tragic."

The victim — whose 1-year-old child was also living in the apartment but was apparently permitted to play with the couple's two children — remains hospitalized at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She is being treated for a litany of injuries, including fractures of the ribs, tailbone and spine, burns, and neck injuries consistent with a strangulation attempt. She was punched so often that her face was disfigured, according to the police.

The apartment in which the abuse allegedly occurred was silent Friday. Its front door, painted like the others in a glossy black, bears a round indentation as though it had been punched. A worn floor mat outside the door reads, "Got dirt?"

Jackson, the neighbor from across the hall, said she had seen the "big woman" — King's charging document lists her as weighing 300 pounds — on a couple of occasions talking with another neighbor, but had observed "nothing out of the ordinary" about her.

"They had kids, and I saw them go off to school," said Jackson, who works for a company that conducts follow-up visits to patients on behalf of doctors and hospitals. "I get home late, so I don't see much of my neighbors."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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