Kristal Huffines and Amber Thompson, both 16, were placed in a county armored personnel carrier along with Syaria Shell, 5, shortly after gunfire faded down the street.

Police said the sitters were trapped inside the house because the child's mother, Melissa, 22, had hired them to watch her child late Friday afternoon while she attended a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

When it came time to return home, Mrs. Shell could not get past the police and into the area around the Lange Street house considered vulnerable to gunfire. The mother kept in constant telephone contact with the two teen-agers and her daughter until their rescue last night.

Said the youngster after being reunited with her mother: "It wasn't fun. But it was fun riding in the thing."

Officials, residents and police have marveled at Palczynski's endurance. He has eluded authorities for nearly two weeks, and for several days has been in constant touch with police over the phone.

Asked last night the last time the fugitive had slept, Toohey said: "At this point, we don't know for sure."

Toohey said negotiators are talking to Palczynski in shifts.

Experts warn that sleep deprivation can make a person increasingly irritable and that judgment fades with energy.

"As it goes over 48 hours, the likelihood [of sleep] is pretty big," said Morris Bird, a neurologist and co-director of Florida Hospital's sleep disorder center. "It's just almost impossible to stay awake continuously beyond 36 or 48 hours without major stimulation.

Palczynski, 31, has eluded police since March 7, when police say he abducted Tracy Whitehead at the Bowleys Quarters home of Gloria Jean Shenk, 50, and her 49-year-old husband, George Shenk, where Whitehead had gone after an argument with Palczynski.

Police say Palczynski dragged Whitehead, 22, from the Shenk's apartment at Town and Country Bowleys Quarters Apartments, and shot and killed the Shenk couple and David M. Meyers, a neighbor who attempted to assist the struggling Whitehead woman.

Palczynski also allegedly shot and killed Jennifer McDonel, 37, during an attempted carjacking the next night.

While authorities fanned out in Baltimore County and southern Harford County searching for the fugitive, Palczynski had slipped into Virginia, probably by train, and stole guns and cash from a house and forced a man to drive him back to eastern Baltimore County, police said.

After officials learned that Palczynski -- who has a history of violence toward women and suffers from a bi-polar mental condition -- had returned to Baltimore County, they intensified their search in the Middle River, Chase and Essex areas.

Baltimore County had help from the FBI, Maryland State Police and other agencies in their hunt for the suspect, a skilled outdoorsman and crack shot. Hundreds of police used helicopters with infrared capabilities, dogs and a robot in the search, but could not find him.

He re-emerged Friday, when the Dundalk hostage situation began.

Sun staff writers Laura Barnhardt, Nancy A. Youssef, Tim Craig and Kurt Streeter and the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this article.