By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun
1:05 PM EST, December 24, 2011
Rose Peterson was watching television on a December night a decade ago, waiting for her son to come home. She never turned in for the night until he was there.
But instead of Derrick Markel Peterson, two Howard County police officers arrived at the door of her home in Laurel. Derrick Peterson had been fatally shot, probably by someone who came from behind him around 9 p.m. on Barrel House Road, around the corner from where he and parents lived.
Starting that night, Dec. 19, 2001, Peterson says, she has wept daily over the slaying of her 23-year-old son and praying that police will find his killer.
"No one had the right to take my child away from me," she said.
"He was a good son," Peterson said; the two had a bond that tightened after his brother became ill and died four years earlier. Peterson "clung on to him because he was my remaining child." They went to movies and to dinner; he helped in the kitchen and he responsibly took care of himself and his belongings, she said.
Responding to 911 calls the night of Derrick Peterson's death, Howard County police found him slumped partly out of the driver's side of his 1998 Lincoln Town Car, a blue vehicle with a blue vinyl top.
He'd gone to work after graduating from Suitland High School, and saved to buy the car. He'd held a series of jobs, including at an ice cream factory, for the former Hecht's department store and UPS, his mother said.
Within days, police said they doubted the homicide was random, but wouldn't reveal why.
Now, after 10 years without an arrest, police have increased the reward to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Derrick Peterson's killer — it's been as high as $8,000 — and are releasing new information.
They say that Derrick Peterson's jacket may be crucial to solving the cold case. It may be a key to pointing police to two men — one with a handgun — and a getaway car.
"I think with the combination of the jacket and the vehicle description, and the distinct suspect descriptions, that friends or associates of these individuals will be able to make the connection, put two and two together," said Nick DeCarlo, the Police Department's cold-case investigator. .
Derrick Peterson's cousin had given him a waist-length jacket in a burgundy color so deep that it looked almost black. "Coogi," the name of the label, was on the back, spelled out in different colors, DeCarlo said.
A man seen running from the area of the shooting appeared to have a gun in his right hand. But he had something else, too — "what may have been the jacket," DeCarlo said. The jacket was missing after the shooting.
"I think he was probably carrying it — it was not found at the scene — and it was stolen from [Peterson] at the time," DeCarlo said.
"If someone saw an individual who they think might be involved with this, who might have been in possession of that jacket, that would be important to us as a lead," DeCarlo said.
That person bolted into a waiting car, a light-colored sedan, possibly a four-door and boxy in style, such as a 1990s-era Chevrolet Caprice or Ford Crown Victoria. The car sped down Barrel House Road, toward North Laurel Road, DeCarlo said.
Running to the car was a person described as a black man in his 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, 160 to 180 pounds. The car's driver, also a black man who appeared to be in his 20s, was described as "chubby" — about 6 feet 3 inches tall and 275 lbs.
Though initial suspicions were that this could have been a robbery, perhaps for the jacket, DeCarlo says the motive may have been drug-related.
"We believe now that the murder was the result of a beef that someone had with Mr. Peterson, probably over a drug issue, and the jacket was stolen — it was an opportunity to take a jacket," DeCarlo said.
DeCarlo would not explain the issue beyond saying that Derrick Peterson was not a drug dealer, but had trace amounts of marijuana on him when found; police believe he used that and PCP. Nor would DeCarlo say how many times or where on his body he was shot.
Maryland court records show he had no criminal record, and Peterson said her son had not been a troublemaker and she had never known him to use drugs. He had no girlfriend issues and no children. He loved basketball and football, and was a Lakers, Redskins and Giants fan — and enjoyed playing basketball as much as going to games, Peterson said.
His parents moved soon after he was killed. "I couldn't come out there every day because of this," Peterson said. Her husband has since died.
Beyond her sorrow, Peterson's anger runs deep: "I have told the detectives and police and anybody else if I knew who it was I would go after them myself. And I would wait for them to come and get me. That's the rage in me. I have nothing to lose."
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 410-313-7867.
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