Woman, 56, found beaten to death in Bel Air area home

A 16-year-old male was taken to Bayview Hospital in Baltimore following the death Thursday morning of a 56-year-old woman in Bel Air, according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

Maj. William Davis, commander of the police operations bureau, said they anticipate the 16-year-old, a student at C. Milton Wright High School, will be charged in connection with the homicide in the 1000 block of Jeanett Way in the residential community in Bel Air.

The 16-year-old male and 56-year-old woman, identified as Donna Zaragoza, both lived in the house, but the Sheriff's Office would not release information about their relationship.

Two other people lived in the basement of the home, which is in a group of townhomes off Henderson Road in the Irwin's Choice neighborhood, along Route 1 just north of the Bel Air town limits.

Deputies were called at 6:36 a.m. to the home for a male threatening suicide, according Davis, speaking at a press conference at Sheriff's Office headquarters in Bel Air Thursday afternoon.

The 911 call was made by a third party who was not at the home, he said.

Deputies were not able to make contact with anyone at the front door and subsequently went around back, where they spoke with the residents of the basement, who let them inside, Davis said.

Zaragoza was found dead in a second-floor bedroom, the result of blunt force trauma; she was beaten with a hammer, Davis said.

The 16-year-old was behind the door of another bedroom and deputies convinced him to come out. He was suffering from multiple self-inflicted stab wounds, Davis said, and he was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Davis would not say what precipitated the woman's murder, saying it is under investigation and deputies are still speaking with witnesses and neighbors.

Deputies had been called to the home numerous times before Thursday, mainly for instances of drug abuse, mental health and domestic issues, as well as animal complaints and medical emergencies, Davis said.

"It's not apparent they are related in any way, shape or form," Davis said.

There was also an overdose death at the address in 2016, Davis said, adding it has no connection to Thursday's incident.

Investigators were still at the scene shortly before 11 a.m., where Lt. Richard Miller of the Sheriff's Office would only say they were investigating a "suspicious death" and could not comment further.

Investigators were going in and out of the house throughout the morning.

A body, encased in a body bag, was brought out of the house around 11:30 a.m. and put into a medical examiner's van.

Neighbor Sandie Gorst could see the body being taken out from her living room window.

Gorst said she had talked with Zaragoza the previous evening.

"She was standing right out there, talking with her nephew," Gorst recalled.

Mail carrier Michael Lester stopped at the mailboxes across from the townhouse Thursday afternoon, shortly after investigators left.

He noted that he lives in the neighborhood, about a quarter of a mile away, in addition to delivering mail there.

He has lived in the community for about four years, delivered mail there for five years and lived in Bel Air for about 20 years. He said suspicious deaths are an uncommon occurrence in the area, that minor property crimes such as vehicle break-ins are more common.

"There's never anything that's significant going on over here," he said.

Dacreasha Doss, who lives up the street, said she woke up to police cars all along Jeanett Way, along with crime scene investigators and later ambulances. She has lived in the neighborhood for about 12 years, and she noted she has never seen anything like the activity she saw Thursday morning.

"Stuff like that doesn't happen around here," Doss said. "It's really scary, and it was just police all up and down."

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