Friends, neighbors hope to spark tips in Remington cold case

Neighborhood canvas planned for this weekend

  • Nancy Schmidt, 74, was stabbed to death in her Remington home in 2008. Neighbors and family are trying to revive the cold-case investigation into her death.
Nancy Schmidt, 74, was stabbed to death in her Remington home… (HANDOUT PHOTO )
April 13, 2011|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

"Maybe it was a gang initiation thing?" the woman asks Detective Thomas Martin.

"That was a thought, but …" Martin says, shaking his head and trailing off.

"Maybe they were already in the house," another woman offers.

"No, they definitely busted in the door," retorts a man.

Three years after 74-year-old Nancy Schmidt was stabbed to death in her Remington home, the trail has gone cold, and neighbors and friends have met in the basement of an office building in hopes of breathing new life into the case. They're brainstorming ideas for a neighborhood canvass this weekend in which they'll pass out fliers, and tips are already coming in.

"The goal is to touch the conscience of someone who knows something," said Joan Floyd, president of the Remington Improvement Association, who is helping lead the effort.

On TV, cold-case detectives reach back into decades-old cases and unearth new clues using state-of-the-art technology. The reality in Baltimore, where police solved 50 percent of the 223 homicides last year, is that there are hundreds if not thousands of cold cases, and only a handful of detectives to pursue them.

Floyd and Schmidt's friend, Lisa Spitler, know police can't do it themselves. With the three-year anniversary of Schmidt's death approaching, they've launched a public campaign to call attention to the unsolved case.

"She was just the sweetest person," Spitler said.

Schmidt lived in the 200 block of W. 31st St., a few blocks from the Baltimore Museum of Art, near the Johns Hopkins University campus. On April 21, 2008, neighbors heard her house alarm go off, then screams. Police found Schmidt stabbed multiple times in her upstairs bedroom.

The attacker had broken in through a back door, navigated through the cluttered home, past a mechanical device that helped her move up and down the stairs, then killed her in her bedroom. Nothing was taken.

"The ring was on her finger, cellphone in hand, and credit card and money in plain sight," said Schmidt's stepson, who attended the meeting.

At a meeting Tuesday night, 17 residents quizzed Martin, a city cold-case detective and a mild-mannered Baltimore native. The questions came so quickly thatt they often talked over his answers. Did police check for fingerprints or DNA? Did they look into other burglaries in the area? Why didn't the neighbors who heard her screams see anything?

"Sometimes, people are afraid to get involved, so things like this happen," said one resident.

Martin's connection to the case is new. The detective originally assigned to it has moved on, which, for an unsolved case, is a one-way ticket to the cold-case squad. Martin noted, however, that his sergeant was intimately involved in the initial investigation, giving them unique insight.

Martin assured them that the primary detective worked long and hard on the case, leaving no stone unturned. The residents weren't so sure. He also said a break could come at any time, from somewhere that is least expected.

"Sometimes, you gotta keep your eyes real wide," he said. "Could it be someone she knows? Yes. But it could also be a random person coming through the neighborhood."

So far, the anniversary campaign has had an impact. A recent feature on WMAR's cold-case segment generated some new tips, Martin told them, which brought a smile to the face of Schmidt's stepdaughter, Lori Wolford. Police have also told Floyd they'll detail an officer to help in their neighborhood canvas this weekend.

"Three years later, we want to open this up really wide and spread the word as far as we can," Floyd said. "We want this thing solved."

Anyone interested in joining the canvass can contact Floyd at rna.president@hotmail.com, while anyone with information about the case can call the cold-case squad at 410-396-2121.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton



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