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Homicides up to at least 5 in Harford in 2011

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.

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.

Murder-suicide

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

Jamal Leon Jenkins, 37, was the victim of a homicide in Edgewood on Sept. 2, the result of a domestic dispute in which he tried to intervene, according to police.

Harford County sheriff's deputies determined there was an argument between Jenkins' fiancée's daughter and her boyfriend, Gary Charles Clayton III, 25. When Jenkins tried to intervene, Clayton allegedly strangled him.

Clayton was indicted Sept. 20 on charges of first-degree murder and second-degree assault. He remains in jail with a trial scheduled for Feb. 27.

Gang members charged in shooting

Christopher Curtis Alves, 21, was found shot to death in a car in the 1300 block of Harford Square Drive, O Court, on Dec. 8, police said.

The next day, three people were arrested, two of them charged in connection with the murder. Police identified the three as members of the gang World's Most Dangerous, or WMD, but no motive was given in the preliminary investigation.

Joseph Andrew Nelson, 20, of Edgewood, and Coty Lamonte Wilson, 21, of Fallston, were charged with the murder of Alves. They are in jail awaiting trial.

No determination yet

Police say a man died in Edgewood Nov. 22 after he entered a home uninvited. His death remains under investigation.

Joseph Augustine Breckenridge, 53, of the 2000 block of Rockwell Street, entered a home on the same block, according to investigators. A woman who was inside the home went next door to get her husband.

When the husband and a neighbor asked Breckenridge to leave and he refused, a struggle ensued. When sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene in response to a 9-1-1 call, they found Breckenridge unconscious. He died at a local hospital a short time later.

Monica Worrell, spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said investigators still haven't received results back from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on a cause of death in the Breckenridge case.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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