— Police said a Frostburg University student stabbed another student during an off-campus party after first pulling a knife on a third student who "would not get out of the way" in a crowded kitchen.
The suspect, Shanee Liggins, 23, of Waldorf, was ordered held without bail on first-degree murder and other charges during a brief hearing at District Court in Cumberland. Her parents attended the hearing and met privately with a public defender, but said little as they left the courthouse holding hands.
On Monday, new details of the killing emerged from court documents as students returned to class. University officials were stunned by the violence that killed Kortneigh McCoy, a 19-year-old gifted singer and graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. McCoy was a sophomore studying physics.
Jonathan Gibralter, the university's president, noted last year's fatal shooting at an off-campus party by a student from Glen Burnie. He said staff, alumni and students "are angry about what happened. I am angry. … For the past five years, we have tried to create a safe environment. Despite our efforts, we have two very tragic deaths in the past two years."
With alcohol appearing to have played a central role in Sunday's stabbing, school officials, including the university police chief, said at a news conference that they would work harder to educate students on the consequences of drinking. But they said campus surveys indicate binge drinking is at an all-time low at Frostburg.
Police Chief Cynthia Smith said her officers work closely with local authorities to identify problem party houses and students who get into trouble with alcohol. But the chief said the single-family house on Maple Street where the stabbing occurred was "not on our most recent list of houses that needed to be visited."
That's despite the fact that the occupants, including Liggins, threw back-to-back parties Friday and Saturday nights, each with a cover charge. Students interviewed Monday said they think that in general, off-campus parties have been tamer in recent years, but they described the parties at the Maple Street house as out of control, leading to fights in the streets and broken windows.
McCoy was a resident assistant at Simpson Hall, which holds about 75 people in a single-sex dorm on the campus quad. She sang as a member of United Voices Under God's Dominion, a student gospel choir. Members did not want to talk publicly Monday.
Her friends had described McCoy as a peacemaker who was stabbed while trying to break up a fight. But police charging documents filed in District Court on Monday tell a more complicated tale. Friends told police that McCoy and a few others were drinking at a house in Frostburg and decided to go to the party on Maple Street about 1:30 in the morning.
They paid the admission and went into the crowded house, which is at the end of Maple Street, directly across from a campus parking lot, and about a five-minute walk to Simpson Hall.
One of McCoy's friends, student Paul Johnson, got into an argument with a female student who was taking money at the door, according to the police charging document. Witnesses said McCoy broke up that altercation.
Other witnesses told police that the suspect, Liggins, had threatened Johnson with a kitchen knife over who would move to let the other pass in the crowded kitchen. McCoy and some of her friends went outside.
McCoy and Liggins then got face-to-face, police said, and a witness told detectives that "both of them struck at each other." One witness said she saw McCoy fall to the pavement after what looked like a "sucker punch."
Johnson, who told police he did not witness the fight outside, ran to help McCoy. Johnson told police he kicked the knife under a nearby car.
Police said McCoy died at Western Maryland Hospital from a two- to three-inch stab wound to her lower neck that the charging document says sliced through her carotid artery. She was also stabbed on the left side of the head. Authorities said they quickly identified a suspect based on witness interviews and a Facebook picture.
No one answered the door at the Maple Street house on Monday, but remains of the party were evident. A trash can out front was filled with cups and topped with a bottle of bleach and discarded yellow crime scene tape. Red plastic cups littered the lawn, and blood still could be seen on the spot where McCoy was stabbed. Two windows were broken. A pink post-it note stuck to the small mailbox next to the front door listed the tenants — Shanee Liggins among them.
Down the street, someone placed a white teddy bear against a street sign, and attached a small bouquet of plastic flowers with a note that read, "R.I.P Kortneigh. Love 151 Maple and the sisters of Alpha Sig." A student who answered the door at that house said they didn't know the victim, but wanted to do something for her since she was killed on their block.
About eight miles away in Cumberland, Liggins appeared briefly on a video monitor for her bail hearing. Her public defender, James Malone, asked for a continuance so he could speak to his client, but the district judge imposed no bail but noted that another hearing might take place soon.
Wiggins answered "yes" to several of the judge's questions, indicating she knew the charges filed against her. She appeared poised, dressed in a white shirt, but said nothing else. After the hearing, Malone disappeared into a conference room with a couple who identified themselves as Liggins' parents. They emerged 40 minutes later, but the attorney had no comment.
The couple held hands as they walked down the steps from the second-floor courtroom. The man said only, "We're trying to get our minds around the facts."