He seemed to like fast cars, water sports and younger women.

But Joseph C. Palczynski also has a violent streak that has made him a dangerous man to the women he's dated.

As the search for Palczynski continued last night in the wake of a rampage that has left four people dead, friends and acquaintances in the Bowleys Quarters area where he grew up described him as a "Jekyll and Hyde" who could easily attract women but turned on them with fury when they tried to get away from him.

"What sets him off is if somebody doesn't want to see him anymore," said Connie Osborne, whose 17-year-old daughter dated Palczynski, who at the time was 27, for about a year in 1995.

Court records show he has convictions for beating three girlfriends -- all teen-agers -- and charges on federal gun law violations that put him in a mental institution after he entered an insanity plea.

"The way he is, there's no telling what he would do next," Osborne said.

Palczynski met her daughter through a friend at Kenwood High School in Essex, where Michella Lisa Osborne was a student at the time, Mrs. Osborne said. He would take her out on his Jet Ski, on either the Middle River or at Gunpowder Falls State Park near where he lived, she said.

He would show up at their house in a late model sports car, Mrs. Osborne said.

But when the girl tried to break up with him in 1995, it started a string of violent attacks against the family that led to a battery conviction.

According to Mrs. Osborne and court records, Palczynski showed up at their home in July 1995 and got into a fight with Gary Osborne, his girlfriend's father. Palczynski broke four of Mr. Osborne's ribs and split open his lip so that it had to be stitched, records show.

A few months later, Palczynski beat up his girlfriend twice -- at one point kicking her so hard in the stomach that she lost the 4-month fetus that she was carrying, Mrs. Osborne said.

It was Palczynski's child but he didn't seem to care, Mrs. Osborne said.

"He was a real jerk," she said.

Court records show that Palczynski showed a pattern of violence against women that goes back to 1987, when he punched a 16-year-old girlfriend for refusing to have sex with him and then threatened her with a razor blade.

Palczynski was sentenced to two years' probation after he was convicted of battery in that attack on the condition that he participate in a domestic violence counseling program.

But a year later, he was sentenced to four years in prison after he was thrown out of the counseling program for "continuous disruptive behavior" and failed to show up for a court-ordered evaluation.

In 1991, Palczynski was again charged with battery, for beating up Sharon Zamrzla, another girlfriend, in the halls of Kenwood High School, where she was a student.

"He was going to 'blow my brains out'" he "had no choice but to kill me," Zamrzla wrote in a charging statement filed Dec. 13, 1991.

Court records show that he was ordered to Spring Grove State Hospital Center and was charged with escape three days later, after he disappeared from the grounds.