A 50-year-old nun was found bound, gagged and murdered yesterday morning inside her Northeast Baltimore convent, a crime that shocked a city already experiencing almost a murder a day.
At dawn, another nun found the body of Sister MaryAnn Glinka, dressed in night clothes, inside the front entryway of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore Motherhouse Community at 3725 Ellerslie Ave. north of Memorial Stadium.
Police were looking late last night for a suspect, Melvin L. Jones, 34, whose last known address was the 1600 block of E. 32nd St. Mr. Jones, also known as Michael Brown, was charged in a warrant with first-degree murder and burglary.
Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman, said a sum of petty cash belonging to the convent and credit cards belonging to one of the nuns were stolen.
He said the suspect was identified after crime lab technicians obtained a clue from the crime scene.
"We hope he [the suspect] is still in town, but we don't know," Agent Price said. "We know he has the funds to leave town."
Police said Sister MaryAnn, the superior of the order of nuns, appeared to have been either strangled or suffocated, but investigators were awaiting the results of an autopsy to get the exact cause of death.
Agent Price would not comment on whether Sister MaryAnn was sexually assaulted.
"That has not been positively established but has not been ruled out," Agent Price said. "We can't confirm or deny it at this point."
Sister MaryAnn's was the sixth slaying in Baltimore since Wednesday night. It was the 70th homicide in the city this year, two more than last year at this time. Last year, there were 335 murders in Baltimore, a record number.
Police believe Sister MaryAnn's killer entered the convent, located in the middle of a 13-acre compound, by breaking a glass pane on the outside door to a library at the north endof the building, then unlocking the door. The convent had an alarm system monitored by a private security company, but police said the alarm had been deactivated. They did not know who had turned it off.
There was evidence of "ransacking" in the library, but police were still trying to determine what, if any, property had been taken.
The library is down a long, narrow corridor from the entryway where Sister MaryAnn's body was found, but it could not immediately be determined if she was killed in the entryway or if her body was dragged there later, police said.
None of the other nuns at the convent, who were asleep at the time of the killing, heard any screams or sounds of a struggle, police said.
Among the convent's 42 nuns, 16 of whom are retired, Sister MaryAnn was typically the first to get up in the morning, rising about 5 a.m., police and archdiocese officials said. Her body was discovered at 5:46 a.m. by another nun who was on her way from the second-floor sleeping quarters to the basement to turn up the heat.
Police said the burglar appeared to have been primarily after the petty cash kept in one of the rooms of the convent. Investigators are still trying to be determine why the intruder attacked Sister MaryAnn, police said.
Mr. Jones, the suspect, has a criminal history but police were unable to provide any details of his prior arrests.
Archbishop William H. Keeler, head of the Baltimore Archdiocese of 440,000 Roman Catholics, rushed to the convent yesterday morning after he heard the news of Sister MaryAnn's slaying prayed with the nuns for more than an hour.
Archbishop Keeler later told reporters waiting outside the compound that the nuns had expressed "sadness of course, and shock" but that he also found among them a "profoundly spiritual feeling."
The nuns took particular comfort in knowing that yesterday was the Feast of St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of Happy Death -- a concept in Catholicism celebrating the joy of going to heaven, he said.
" 'If the Lord is calling Sister MaryAnn home, this is a good day for her to go,' " he quoted the nuns as saying.
A somber Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke arrived at the convent shortly after noon yesterday, and also prayed with the nuns.
"This crime strikes at the heart of so many values in our community we do hold sacred. I think it's a community tragedy," Mr. Schmoke said. "We will do all we can to solve the crime."
Throughout yesterday morning and into the early afternoon, a steady stream of police cars and nuns from throughout the city drove onto the convent grounds. Two nuns held up a hand-written sign saying "No Comments" as they passed through a phalanx of reporters and camera crews gathered outside.
Last night, at a special mass for Sister MaryAnn at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on North Charles Street, Archbishop Keeler said, "We want to pray that we may know a greater peace, so that a message of faith can be heard."
Other prayers for Sister MaryAnn were offered at regularly scheduled masses at Catholic churches throughout the archdiocese.
Agent Price, the city police spokesman, described the Waverly-Ednor Gardens area in which the convent is located as C "low-crime area. What crimes are committed are property crimes."
The compound also includes a small school for mentally and physically challenged students. It is surrounded by a low stone wall topped by a small wrought-iron fence that appears to be designed more for decorative than security purposes.
The nuns in the convent "weren't particularly security-conscious, but had no reason to be," he said.
Maj. Margaret Patten, commander of the Northern District, met with the nuns at the convent yesterday to reassure them about security, and police stepped up patrols in the area. The school was open yesterday because officials did not have time to notify parents to close it.
Sister MaryAnn had been a nun for 32 years, working first with the Felician order and, since 1976, with the Franciscan order. She grew up in Fells Point and joined a convent when she was 13.
Since becoming a nun at the age of 18, she has held several positions throughout the mid-Atlantic area. Among those were work as the principal of two Baltimore-area Catholic schools.
She is survived by her mother, Helen Glinka; two brothers, Richard Glinka and Ernest Glinka; and a sister, Sister Patricia Glinka, who is also a nun. Ernest Glinka is the head of the Baltimore city pension and retirement system.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete yesterday.