The body of a man who had been shot to death was spotted at 4:10 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2009, on the edge of an exit ramp off I-270 in Gaithersburg.
For weeks, he went unidentified.
Montgomery County police published a detailed description. Then they published photographs of his oversized belt buckle and of a laundry tag attached to his jeans, with a handwritten five-digit number and a name that didn't match any public records.
Finally, police released a picture of the man's face taken in the morgue. The victim was Hispanic, and authorities checked logbooks at entry points along the U.S.-Mexican border.
It wasn't until April that detectives matched the man's fingerprints to the fingerprints of Gerardo Botello of New York. Finally, authorities had a name and an approximate age, around 40, for their homicide victim.
Their first break in the case didn't come until November 2010.
That's when police say they first suspected that Botello had been killed in Baltimore County.
It would be months later before a detective located two witnesses who said they had been in a car speeding up York Road between Cockeysville and Timonium when another passenger shot Botello several times and dumped his body in Montgomery County.
On Feb. 4, Baltimore County police charged Jeffrey Alexander Gregory, 44, of East Baltimore, with first-degree murder. At the time, the suspect was already in prison, serving a three- to five-year sentence on a federal gun conviction.
Baltimore County police disclosed the killing and the arrest in late February, after inquires from The Baltimore Sun. The department's spokesman issued a news release on the case, and published it on agency's website, for the first time on Friday.
Botello's killing was put on this year's homicide list because it was February 2011 when police confirmed that it had occurred in Baltimore County. "Suddenly, we got a homicide we never thought we had," said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
The killing itself appears routine; police believe it's the result of a drug dispute, but the initial mystery of the body coupled with the undisclosed crime prompted a further look at the case.
Baltimore County police provided The Baltimore Sun with some basic information about the killing when inquiries were first made in February, and a spokesman provided a police charging document last week that adds a few more details.
Little could be learned about either Botello or Gregory, who has past convictions in state court on drug and assault charges.
The people who said they were in the car with the victim told detectives that Botello was shot on York Road in the early morning hours of Feb. 5, 2009, and then driven to Gaithersburg and pushed or pulled from the vehicle.
Six months later, in August 2009, police responded to the High Tops Restaurant on York Road for a fight. Court documents say that Gregory got into a dispute with four men in the parking lot and threatened them with a loaded .45 caliber Ruger handgun.
One of the men knocked the gun from Gregory's hands and held him at gunpoint until police arrived. An officer said in court documents that they found a bag of cocaine in Gregory's Porsche Cayenne and arrested him on drug and gun charges. Inside his home in Sparks, police said they found a 9mm Intratec pistol, along with digital scales and drug packaging material.
Gregory struck a deal and pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. It's not yet known whether police have linked either of the guns seized during his August arrest to the shooting of Botello. At the time Gregory was arrested in the gun case, police had no idea who the victim was in Montgomery County or where he had been killed.
Police wouldn't comment on this case beyond what has been released in court papers. The suspect's next court appearance on the murder charge is scheduled for April.