Columbia family pulls together after loss

Esther Reed, right, holds a picture of her son, Aaron, while daughter Julia and husband Brian sit in the family van in Columbia on Tuesday. Aaron, 21, a gifted musician, died suddenly last month and his instruments were stolen after Brian brought them back from Buffalo, N.Y. (Photo by Doug Kapustin / February 18, 2014)

A Columbia family is still reeling from two devastating blows after learning of their 21-year-old son's sudden death in New York and discovering the theft of his prized electric guitar and other music gear from their home less than two weeks later.

After working until midnight Jan. 25 as a waiter in Buffalo, where he'd moved in May, Aaron Davis Reed, a 2010 Hammond High School graduate, returned to the apartment he shared with three roommates, spoke to them briefly and then lay down to sleep on the sofa.

The next morning, the roommates discovered Aaron — a musician striving to make his mark as a guitarist, songwriter and producer — lying fully clothed on the bathroom floor. They called 911, but Aaron was pronounced dead at the scene.

"My brother, who lives in a Buffalo suburb, called around 11 a.m., Jan. 26 to tell us what had happened," said Aaron's father, Brian Reed. "That's a call you never want to get."

Jim McClure, investigator in the Erie County medical examiner's office, said cause of death is pending autopsy results, which may not be available for up to 120 days.

Reed said his son was known for his positive outlook.

"He had a quirky half-smile and was always happy," he said. "I had spoken to him that Saturday at work, and he talked with his grandmother by phone that day for 20 minutes. He was also planning a trip to California with friends.

"I'm comfortable with saying that he wasn't suicidal and that I don't think there was foul play," Reed said.

Reed, a professor and chairman of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering at UMBC, had made the trip Feb. 4 to western New York to bring Aaron's ashes home and to retrieve his belongings, including $10,000 worth of music equipment.

Physically and emotionally weary from the journey, Reed decided to leave the gear stashed in the family's Dodge Caravan overnight upon his return Feb. 6 so he could rest. He parked the minivan in their driveway off a peaceful street in Kings Contrivance, locked it and went into the house.

The next morning, Feb. 7, the family discovered the van had broken been into during the night and the equipment had been stolen.

"That was a double whammy after what we've been through," Reed said.

Reward for stolen gear

The family "is desperate" to get back Aaron's Fender Stratocaster, "a very high-end electric guitar" that is white with a tortoise shell pick guard, as well as his Yamaha acoustic guitar and a rare model of crate tube amp that he used, he said.

"Those three pieces are an extension of Aaron, so they're extremely important to us," Reed said, though other pieces of equipment were also taken. "All we want is the gear back, no questions asked, no charges filed."

The family is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the recovery of the equipment, he said.

Reed has posted a plea on bandmix.com, asking fellow musicians to keep an eye out for any attempt to sell Aaron's gear. He has listed each piece online by model and serial number. Family members have also alerted area stores that sell used music equipment to the burglary.

Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said, "Police are investigating whether the equipment may have been stolen by a known or unknown suspect" after the Reeds advised them that "numerous people knew through postings on social media where the property would be.

"No one has been charged, but the case is ongoing," Llewellyn said, adding that persons with information should call police at 410-313-3700.

As the investigations into Aaron's death and the burglary continue, the family is working to return to normal routines as best they can.