A leaf falling on Gwen Criswell's lawn was enough for neighbors to take notice. The 42-year-old mother of two was not the type of person to let it sit for long.

"We would watch them," said Cathy Lettis, a neighbor who has known the family for 15 years. "We would tell them, 'You got a leaf on your lawn. When are you both going to pick it up?' We used to kid them about it."

Friends and neighbors described the Criswells as a close-knit private family that enjoyed spending time with each other and rarely ventured out alone.

The family was actively involved in Crofton activities and those in their secluded neighborhood in the 1500 block of Eversham Place. Gwen Criswell would sponsor block parties every year, inviting anyone who wanted to come. She was active in the Beautification Committee, putting her green thumb to work making her community a prettier place.

That was before Sunday, however, when she was abducted and killed a mile from her home behind the Crofton Library. Criswell had planned to go shopping at a food store next to the library.

Her body was found Monday night; a 29-year-old Davidsonville man has been charged in her death.

Friends, neighbors and people she worked with describe Criswell as family-oriented, innocent and quiet. Neighbors expressed shock at her death, calling it senseless and brutal.

"She was the most warm and decent person," said Marcia Richard, who had known her since Criswell moved to the area five years ago. "She never had a harsh word about anyone."

Criswell, a native Marylander who grew up in Silver Spring, and her husband Ted moved into their present home five years ago soon after they got married. Each had a child by a previous marriage; both were adopted. Ted Jr. is in his teens; Brian is about 20 years old.

In 1977, Criswell started working at the Washington Naval Yard as a secretary for an admiral.

At the time of her death, she was supervisor of a computer system at the Department of Defense in Washington. Her co-workers described her as a dedicated person who could work with anybody.

"It's hard to find someone of her kind of skill," said Rebecca Wade, her supervisor. "You could give her something that was difficult and leave her alone. You didn't have to check on it to see if it would get done because you knew it would be done."

Carol Whitsell, a friend of Criswell for 10 years and her aerobics partner, said she was "very timid -- not so much a leader as a follower. That's why she was so well-liked. Whatever you wanted to do was fine with her."

Friends say they just can't forget that Criswell was killed near a shopping center that they all frequent.

Her friends also can't understand why Criswell was killed. "If he just wanted her car and money, that's one thing. But did he have to kill her for it?" Lettis asked.

Ted Criswell turned aside questions about his wife. "Everyone else has already said what a fine woman she was. What else can I say?"

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