Harford homicides 2011

Friends light candles as the candlelight vigil for Patrick Ward, who was stabbed to death inside his home in Bel Air in August. Mr. Ward's death was one of five homicides in Harford County in 2011. A sixth violent death remains under investigation. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / January 3, 2012)

Last year was another deadly year in Harford County, with five people murdered, according to local police. The death of a sixth person who died under somewhat murky circumstances remains under investigation.

While this homicide statistic still doesn't come close to, say, Baltimore City, which saw its homicide rate fall to less than 200 for the first time in more than 30 years, it is still a significant increase from 2010's numbers, when there were three homicides in Harford.

The 2011 spike begs an one obvious question: Is Harford County becoming a more dangerous place to live?

It's a question whose answer seems to ebb and flow with the murder rate itself, which in 2011 was about 2.04 murders for each 100,000 of population, a common measure. In contrast, Baltimore City, whose crime rate is often blamed for some of Harford's own crime woes, recorded 196 homicides last year. The city's population is two and half times Harford's.

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Last year's murder victims in the county ranged in age from 16 to 71. The circumstances of their deaths were in most cases the usual, such as robbery, arguments and possible gang rivalry. There was also the unusual for this county, a wife's murder by her husband, followed by his suicide. The latter victim was the only woman among the five homicides.

Aberdeen fatal stabbing

The first murder victim of 2011 was an Aberdeen teenager.

Thomas Bernard Burdsall Jr., 16, was stabbed outside his home in the 200 block of Edmund Street Jan. 7. He was found suffering from a wound to the chest and treated by medics from the Aberdeen Fire Department. Shortly after being transported to Harford Memorial Hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Terrance Dareyll Wanzer was arrested and charged with first-degree and second-degree murder and first-degree and second-degree assault. He remains in jail with a trial date set for late March. Police and prosecutors haven't said much about a motive, but a witness testified at Wanzer's bail hearing that the victim and his alleged assailant had argued.


A Havre de Grace area couple met a sad end in April, in what police believe was a murder/suicide.

John Roger Keith Preston, 53, shot his wife, Frances Blake Preston, 50, and then shot himself, according to police. Mr. Preston's parents were the ones to find the couple in their home in the 100 block of Northway Drive in Havre de Grace.

Both Bel Air and Edgewood experienced murders in 2010 and in 2011. Bel Air had one, same as a year earlier.

Bel Air fatal stabbing

Patrick Xavier Ward, 29, was stabbed multiple times in the upper torso while inside his apartment in the 900 block of Redfield Road on Aug. 5 — an apparent burglary gone wrong, according to police. The legally blind college student was just about to graduate from Harford Community College before his death.

At Mr. Ward's candlelight vigil, it was clear that the murder shook the community to its core. Residents who didn't know him came to pay their respects, many still looking for answers as to why and how something like this could happen in an area they thought was safe.

Mr. Ward received a posthumous degree from Harford Community College a few months later.

The man charged with Mr. Ward's murder, 17-year-old Donnell Graham, was a neighbor. Graham, who is in jail, is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 30.

Edgewood was the scene of at least two homicides in 2011, the same as 2010. A third unusual death in the community remains under investigation.

Man strangled in domestic dispute