Charles Henry Emanuel, a slender, bearded man who earned an associate of arts degree at night while working at Harford Community College by day, was such a dependable employee that he missed only 3 1/2 days of work in seven years.
"Everyone who worked with Charles found him to be very agreeable," said Fran Turcott, a spokeswoman for Harford Community College. "He was very reliable and a very good worker."
So his co-workers were shocked and baffled, she said, when Mr. Emanuel, 30, was charged with beating and stabbing to death 70-year-old Margaret Attwell Monday night in her northern Baltimore County home.
Police alleged that Mr. Emanuel, of the 300 block of Oak St., Aberdeen, also stabbed Mrs. Attwell's husband James, 72, and their friend, Clara Vickers, 82, of Booker, Texas. No charges have yet been filed in those attacks.
Mrs. Attwell died of a stab wound to the back and of "blunt force trauma" to the head, said Dr. James Locke, an assistant medical examiner who performed an autopsy.
Mr. Attwell is listed in serious but stable condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Mrs. Vickers was listed in critical condition.
Mr. Emanuel appeared in Towson District Court yesterday before Judge Michael McCampbell, who denied bail.
Ms. Turcott said Mr. Emanuel has worked as a central receiving clerk at Harford Community College since 1985. The people with whom he worked said he appeared fine Friday. But the day of the slaying, Mr. Emanuel failed to show up for work and didn't call in, she said.
According to police and charging documents, the suspect allegedly tried to strangle a Bel Air cabdriver during a robbery near the Harford Mall about 8:30 a.m. Monday and then stole the car, a 1984 Ford Station wagon with "Victory Cab" markings. About 5:30 p.m. neighbors in the north county community of West Liberty saw the cab parked in the Attwells' driveway, according to police.
Police alleged that the suspect broke into the home in the 21000 block of W. Liberty Road, stabbed the Attwells and Mrs. Vickers, set fire to some material in the bathtub and fled in the cab. They said robbery appeared to be the motive.
E. Jay Miller, the county police spokesman, said information about the incident was difficult to obtain because Mrs. Vickers was uncon
scious when police arrived, and Mr. Attwell cannot hear or speak. But Mr. Attwell was able to communicate that he attempted to stop the attacker and was overpowered. He summoned help Monday night by running to a nearby home and scrawling a note, Mr. Miller said.
When police got to the scene, they found Mrs. Attwell lying face down on the bedroom floor and the house full of smoke, Mr. Miller said.
The Victory cab was discovered nearby. It, too, had been set on fire.
An intensive four-hour manhunt by more than 40 police officers with dogs and a helicopter ended when Larry Chilcoat, a Baltimore County firefighter, caught Mr. Emanuel trying to break into his house in the 3000 block of Anderson Road, about a quarter of a mile from the Attwell home, police said.
"He had a gun," said Mr. Chilcoat. "I yelled, 'Halt or I'll shoot.' He tried to run away, and I fired a shot. He dropped to the ground."
Mr. Emanuel was not hit.
Mr. Chilcoat's son, Donald, 28, a Baltimore County police officer, and a friend, State Trooper Brian Wisnom, 26, were nearby. They heard the shot, came running and held Mr. Emanuel until on-duty police arrived.