Douglas Franklin Jones was a regular visitor to the food pantry at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, living just yards away in a wooded area behind a house owned by the church.
But in a recent visit, Jones, 56, became belligerent and church members asked him to leave. When he returned to the church Thursday evening, police say, he shot the only two people in the building.
Police found Brenda Brewington, a 59-year-old church administrative assistant, and the Rev. Marguerite Mary Kohn, 62, the church's co-rector, shot inside the church; Brewington was dead and Kohn was critically wounded. They found Jones across the church parking lot in the woods near the 3600 block of Rogers Ave., dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The shooting rattled Episcopalians across the state and the nation, as well as neighbors in the quiet community surrounding the church, near Ellicott City's historic downtown. The shootings occurred on the eve of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland's annual convention, a meeting that was delayed Friday by a prayer service for the victims.
Jones' anger with the church may have been a motive, but police are still piecing together what happened in the days leading up to the shooting, spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said Friday. Investigators were unable to speak with Kohn, who was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and was listed in critical condition late Friday. Police were also investigating how Jones obtained a firearm.
According to a statement from church warden Craig Stuart-Paul, Kohn "remains on life support in critical condition to support the family intentions to provide the gift of life through organ donation." Brewington was pronounced dead at the scene.
Neighbors said they were rattled by the sound of a police helicopter hovering over the church Thursday night as police and ambulance sirens wailed. Mary and Ken Rizzo watched the tragedy unfold from their back porch, which overlooks Smith Avenue and the church's 5-acre property.
"We were all kind of speculating as we hung out on our deck, but the police presence was here too long for it to be ordinary," Mary Rizzo said. The couple watched as police emerged from the woods behind a rusty metal shed next to the church-owned duplex house carrying a body bag.
"I think everybody's just surprised about what happened," said Carlos Leiva, who lives nearby on Belfont Drive. "We were not expecting that."
Public records list the right side of the duplex, 8637 Smith Ave., as Jones' most recent address. He was served with a lien for $13,000 owed to Ford Motor Credit Co. at the address in 2007. A deed St. Peter's filed in 1999 to consolidate properties shows that the church owns the home.
The home is also the address listed in court records for Leonard Jones, who until about six months ago worked at West End Service, a truck dealership and garage across the woods from St. Peter's, according to Mark Klein Sr., one of the company's owners. It was not clear Friday what the relationship was between Leonard Jones and Douglas Jones, if any.
A cardboard "no trespassing" sign was taped near the entrance to the church-owned house. Attempts to reach Leonard Jones by phone were unsuccessful.
Nick Nichols, president of the nearby Ellicott Hills community association, said he was concerned to learn about the food pantry's presence.
"I'm just now finding out there's a food bank there," he said. "Maybe they should be doing that kind of charity work somewhere else."
Cars streamed steadily into St. Peter's parking lot Friday night, past two Howard County police cars at the entrance and TV trucks that lined Rogers Avenue, as church members and nonmembers came for services. The church has about 300 members, said diocesan spokeswoman Sharon Tillman.
"Of course emotions are going on. They're just trying to strengthen each other," said Carolyn Boston, a member of Columbia Community Church who attended the service. "They are focused, determined to keep doing what they have been called to do."
Stuart-Paul said in a statement that the congregation and diocese are "saddened beyond words by the shootings here last night." Church officials declined to be interviewed.
On Friday morning, convention activities at the Hunt Valley Marriott started late to make time for a prayer service for the victims, as well as singing and discussion. "It was a time to start the process of forgiveness," Tillman said.
Condolences streamed into Episcopal community websites as the news spread to congregations across the country.
"May she rest in peace and rise in glory," Anne LeVeque wrote on EpiscopalCafe.com in reference to Brewington.