Neighbors grew concerned when they didn’t see 83-year-old Dorothy Mae Neal walking with her cane to the bus stop as she did almost daily.
The elderly woman was independent, and always could be seen leaving her apartment in the 2300 block of Winchester St. in West Baltimore.
“She wasn’t the type to stay in the house,” said her neighbor of 20 years, who didn’t want her name published out of safety concerns.
When Neal was not seen for several days, the neighbor said she called police Wednesday and officers responded a short time later. Outside Neal’s basement unit at the Rosemont Gardens Apartments, Neal’s mail lay on the ground, which the neighbor said was unusual.
Inside police found Neal just inside the door, the neighbor said.
She was unresponsive and the apparent victim of an assault, police said. She was taken to the University of Maryland Medical Center where she was pronounced dead early Thursday. Police are investigating her death as a homicide.
Neal’s neighbor, 67, knew Neal since she bought a home on the block 20 years ago. She said Neal lived alone and only has family out of state.
“She had no one to look after her,” the neighbor said.
Another neighbor who lives in Neal’s building, Eartha Davis, said she didn’t know Neal well, but often saw her coming and going from the bus stop with her cane.
“It’s sad when anyone dies, but she was an elderly woman,” Davis said. “It’s very scary. It’s the first time I heard of anything so close.”
Davis said she watched as paramedics carried Neal out of the apartment. Police came to her door and left a flyer asking for information, offering up to a $4,000 reward.
Neal’s death is August’s 30th homicide — the third time this year the monthly tally in the city has hit that benchmark. From mid-2007 through 2014, the city never saw 30 homicides in a month. Since 2015, however, there have been 18 months when more than 30 were killed.
Neal is also this year’s 19th victim over 50 years old.
“Every homicide is sad and tragic, but when we talk about our vulnerable victims, it just adds a level of tragedy to it. We’re talking about people sometimes who are completely defenseless,” Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said at a news conference Friday.
In the same briefing, he also gave details about a 62-year-old man who was shot and injured in the stomach while sitting on the bench in the 2500 block of Violet Avenue on Thursday night. Smith said the man was not the intended target. The shooting, he said, occurred near a home for seniors.
In Neal’s case, Smith said investigators found no signs of forced entry into the apartment. It’s unclear how long she remained in the apartment before the officers responded.
Investigators don’t know yet if this was a burglary, he said, because of the amount of things in her apartment.
Neal’s longtime neighbor said she had tried to help Neal move somewhere safer for elderly residents. The neighbor said she grew concerned about Neal after she fell down several times outside her apartment. She said Neal had lived in the apartment complex for 30 years and was known to everyone in the neighborhood. Kids would often offer to help carry her bags when she returned home from the grocery store, the neighbor said.
While Neal was a private person who mostly kept to herself, “she would open the door to anybody,” the neighbor said.
She would leave daily, taking the bus to get groceries and go to church, the neighbor said.
“She was sweet. She talked really soft,” she said. “She was always getting on the bus.”
Since seeing Neal on the ground in her apartment, the neighbor said she’s been unable to sleep and feels unsafe in her home.
“It’s terrible,” she said.
Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at 410-396-2100 or the Metro Crime Stoppers tip line at 1-866-7LOCKUP. Tips can also be texted to police at 443-902-4824.
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this story.