'Mayor of Brooklyn' mourned; two held in killing

Police arrest two in stabbing death and robbery of elderly Brooklyn Park man

His neighbors and acquaintances called 83-year-old James Herget "the mayor of Brooklyn."

They described him as a friendly man and neighborhood fixture who kept peppermint and butterscotch candy in his pocket for people he might encounter during his daily strolls along Cambria Street.

Herget knew everyone in his South Baltimore neighborhood — including, say police, the two men now accused of breaking into his house, robbing him and killing him some time Thursday night or Friday morning.

Police on Saturday charged 46-year old Derrick Carter and 24-year old Steven Stawara with first-degree murder in Herget's death.

Like Herget, the two men lived in the 400 block of Cambria Street. Both were being held Saturday, and no attorneys for either men were listed in online records.

Herget's body was found Friday morning in the rowhouse where neighbors said he had lived alone and had resided almost his entire life. He had been stabbed several times, police said.

Neighbors who knew him as a constant presence in Brooklyn were shocked and angered by his death.

"I am absolutely devastated to know that something that bad could come to him," said Phil Rice, who lives across the street from Herget's rowhouse, its front window decorated for Christmas. "Jimmy was a good person, kind to everybody."

"He would always stop and chat with you and hand you a piece of candy," said Patrick Green, who has lived in Brooklyn about 15 years. "We are all in shock and mourning the loss of a great man."

Green and another resident, Sherry Cunfer, said Herget cleaned the streets of trash each day and kept an eye on his neighbors' homes while they were at work. Pat Wills, who owns a Patapsco Avenue printing business, said Herget recycled odds and ends, hardware and tools that he or a neighbor might one day need.

According to Wills, Herget had worked for years for the Koppers Co. until the South Baltimore plant closed. Herget had once been an usher at the long-closed Patapsco Movies.

"He was a sweet man," said Cunfer. "When I first moved here, he was the first to come over and talk to me and welcome me. The man loved this neighborhood. …

"It's just so senseless."

Green said he went to Herget's house Friday when word spread that the elderly man had been killed. Several neighbors gathered from behind a crime scene tape; Green said one of the men later arrested in Herget's death was among those in the group.

Residents of Brooklyn have complained to Southern District police over the last year about increased prostitution and drug dealing, some of which they say occurs on street corners near churches and an elementary-middle school.

Both Green and Willis said that within the past year, someone broke into Herget's house and stole a large-screen television set.

"He didn't like the stuff going on in the neighborhood," said Rice.

Carolyn Morris, a longtime neighbor, noted that some of the nearby homes, once owner-occupied, have been converted to rental units.

"[Herget] tells a lot of people his business," Morris said. "I kept telling him not to do that. But he liked everybody.

"He was a heck of a nice guy. I can't believe someone would do that to him. He was harmless. He couldn't fight back. That's a coward who would kill someone like that."

drodricks@baltsun.com

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