A prominent Ellicott City blogger and businessman was stabbed to death by his daughter's 19-year-old boyfriend, who plotted with the 14-year-old girl to kill him so the two could run away together, Howard County police said Friday.
Dennis Lane, 58, was found before dawn in his Winding Ross Way home. Police charged Jason Anthony Bulmer and Morgan Lane Arnold, both students at Mount Hebron High School, as adults in his killing; they both face conspiracy and murder counts. Both were held without bail, according to online court records.
Police said Arnold and Bulmer, who had blood on his hands and clothes, were found sitting in an upstairs bedroom when officers arrived and found Lane dead in a second bedroom. Another adult resident had heard a commotion and called 911.
The killing astonished residents of the close-knit community and those who said the father and daughter were devoted to each other. The scenario described by police was equally unfathomable: Arnold encouraged Bulmer to stab her father and told him they would run away together afterward.
But a motive remains unclear, police said.
"We really at this point don't know why they wanted to hurt or kill Mr. Lane," said Sherry Llewellyn, a Howard County police spokeswoman. "We have not been able to establish a motive. We've just gathered evidence that points to them being responsible."
According to police, they decided to carry out the crime on Thursday after discussing it through "electronic communication" for the past two months. Arnold left open a sliding glass door, allowing Bulmer to slip in around 4 a.m., police said.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said he was "shocked and saddened" by Lane's death, calling him a "significant and thoughtful voice in the Howard County business and political community."
Lane worked in commercial real estate and was well known through his blog, "Tales of Two Cities," where he wrote about real estate and other county issues and often referred to his daughter as "peanut." He also hosted a podcast.
Baltimore City Councilman James Kraft, a friend, called Lane "one of the best people I know — everybody loved the man."
"Morgan was his life," Kraft said. "He loved that girl. He just loved that girl. ... Everything I know about Morgan and Dennis is that they had a great relationship. … My whole knowledge is that she loved her father and he loved her."
Relatives of Bulmer and Arnold could not be reached or declined to comment Friday.
Bulmer and Arnold posted frequently on social media. The pair often wrote to each other, expressing their mutual affection — the profile picture on a Facebook page that's linked to her father's page and that friends confirm was hers shows Pegasus and in orange letters reads, "I love Jason."
Clay Bleyer, 14, also a freshman at Mount Hebron, said Arnold and Bulmer hung out mostly with one another — they "just did their own thing" —and he often saw them laughing together.
"The only person I saw her with in the halls with was Jason," he said. "They would always hold hands in the hallway, and Jason would always wait outside her classes for her."
Sarah Fuss, a Mount Hebron freshman who said she was perhaps Arnold's closest friend, was stunned to learn of the allegations.
"I'm freaking out about it," said Fuss, who lives in Arnold's Ellicott City neighborhood, Taylor Village.
While Fuss said she has known Arnold for about eight years and was taking two classes with her this year, Fuss didn't know Bulmer well. Paige Fuss, Sarah's mother, said the two girls had gone hiking together recently.
"This has been a terrible blow to everyone. It's a very, very sad situation," she said. "Dennis was a very good person, a very good father. We're just all so devastated."
Taylor Village was quiet Friday afternoon, with few vehicles driving through except a mail truck. At Lane's house on Winding Ross Way, which meanders through cul-de-sacs, a white SUV remained parked in the driveway.
A bouquet of flowers was placed the front steps of the 3,100-square-foot home, which was built in 2006 and purchased for $759,700, according to state property records.
Bill Harrison, who worked with Lane at Lee & Associates in Columbia, said he believed Lane and his daughter were "very close."
"He would help her with her homework, he would take her hiking. I never heard him say a bad word about the child," Harrison said. "He never shared with me anything that would have led to me believe that such violence could've happened."
Lane had joint custody of Arnold with her mother, an arrangement worked out in court in 2009, records show. Harrison said Arnold would live with Lane during the week, and stay with her mother on weekends. Harrison also said that Lane was engaged to be married and that he owned the home with his fiancee.
A woman at the home Friday declined to comment, asking for privacy.
Howard County Council member Courtney Watson said Lane was "very well-known and very well-respected," and was a friend to "many, many people in the Howard County community."
"It's going to take some time to make sense of it, if one can make sense of it," she said.
David Bittner, who produces the "And Then There's That ..." podcast, said he was packing up to record one at the Mall in Columbia on Friday when Lane's co-host, Paul Skalny, called him with the news. Lane and Skalny had been co-hosting the podcast every other Friday for nearly four years.
"We are all just so sad that, just so sad that he's gone. I can't believe it," Bittner said.
Skalny remembered his friend as someone with an infectious personality.
"He's one of those people that lights up a room," Skalny said. "You meet him, and you feel like he cares about you and what you have to say. On the other hand, he wasn't swayed by what other people thought of him. He had tremendous convictions and wasn't scared of what other people may say about him. He went with his gut and what he thought was right."
Jessie Newburn, founder of the blogging community HoCoBlogs, said Lane's death meant "the passing of a really important, iconic person in our community." Newburn started the online community in 2008, and Lane was one of the first dozen or so bloggers, she said. Now, the community has about 350 members.
"As a blogger and a person, Dennis found this magical balance beam to walk," said Newburn, who has known Lane for more than 20 years. "He was concurrently on the inner circles of institutional knowledge and people trusted him. He also lived his life and wrote his blog the way he wanted to."
A disclaimer at the bottom of Lane's blog explained his approach: "If the content presented here offends you in some way you are probably taking yourself too seriously. If it is journalism that you are looking for, buy a newspaper."
Newburn said she was "always in awe" of Lane's tenacity.
"He had people he didn't care for, and people who didn't care for him, but he made no bones about it," she said. "He was very fair and willing to admit when he was wrong. He was a model in the blogging community. There's no one like him in terms of what he did."
Horizon Foundation spokesman Ian Kennedy, a former blogger, said Lane went with his gut but could admit when he was wrong. Kennedy and Lane became friends, frequently having lunch together and bonding over common interests, like their dogs. Lane's death, Kennedy said, hasn't sunk in.
"He was our storyteller," Kennedy said. "He knew Howard County's history and he was involved in its present. This is a huge loss."
A photograph that appeared on the front page of Saturday’s print editions of The Baltimore Sun was not of Dennis Lane, the Ellicott City blogger who was found killed in his home on Friday. A correct photo appears with the online article.
Sun reporters Jessica Anderson, Ian Duncan and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.