Bel Air death being investigated as homicide

The death of a Connecticut man in a Bel Air apartment near downtown was a homicide, Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said Tuesday morning.

Rodney Holmes Smith, 52, formerly of Connecticut, "had succumbed to a blunt force trauma" and the state medical examiner's office ruled it a homicide Monday morning, Matrangola said.

Police do not know what weapon may have been used to kill Smith, who was found in his apartment at 204 A Baltimore Pike at 8:20 a.m. Sunday.

The apartment had no signs of forced entry and neither robbery nor home invasion is suspected, Matrangola said.

Smith lived alone and Matrangola did not know if someone may have visited him.

"We are actively investigating," he said. "We are very confident in our detectives."

Matrangola also did not know how long Smith may have been deceased. He said the medical examiner is expected to give a time of death early next week.

Police said earlier there is no indication the incident is connected to any previous incidents in town.

Smith does not have - other than a November charge of riding a scooter without a helmet, license or insurance - a police record in Harford County.

The alley near the site of the homicide gets frequent visitors. Brian McCully, of Statewide Bail Bonds, said he regularly sees three or four people walk across the parking lot from the alley, stopping at his Dumpster and using a portable toilet there.

He said he has never seen any real crimes or incidents.

"It wasn't a problem for me," he said of the passers-by.

Smith's murder is the second in Bel Air this year and the fourth in less than three years.

The first murder victim was Robert C. Richardson Jr., who was allegedly killed by his 17-year-old son on Jan. 9. Robert C. Richardson III is awaiting trial on charges of first- and second-degree murder in that case.

On Aug. 5, 2011, Patrick Xavier Ward, a 29-year-old man who lived in an apartment on Redfield Road, just outside the Bel Air town limits, was stabbed to death by a 17-year-old during a robbery inside the victim's apartment. The assailant, Donnell Graham, pleaded guilty to first degree murder this past March and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

In July 2010, a 25-year-old Edgewood man was shot to death in the parking lot of the American Legion hall on Bond Street in downtown Bel Air where a party had been taking place. The 21-year-old Parkville man who did the shooting pleaded guilty to second degree murder in November 2011 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A 23-year-old man was stabbed to death in a road rage incident that occurred in an alley in downtown Bel Air in May 2006. Before that incident, Bel Air had not experienced a homicide in the town limits in 23 years.

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