The man accused of killing a Franciscan nun at her Northeas Baltimore convent was arrested after a break-in there four years ago and had worked on the property for a contractor.
Melvin Lorenzo Jones, 34, whose last known address was about 10 blocks from the Ellerslie Avenue convent, was still being sought last night on a warrant charging him with first-degree murder in the strangulation of Sister MaryAnn Glinka.
Detectives went to several of Mr. Jones' old neighborhoods in the Waverly area of Northeast Baltimore yesterday, but were unable to come up with any strong leads to his whereabouts.
"We've been getting a lot of calls with information from people who have seen his picture in the paper and on TV," said Agent Doug Price, a Police Department spokesman.
But none of those callers has a clear idea where the suspect may be, he said.
Sister MaryAnn was found bound and gagged Friday inside the front entryway of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore Motherhouse Community. Her killer stole several hundred dollars and credit cards from the convent.
Sisters in the convent said yesterday the building at 3725 Ellerslie Ave. was burglarized three times in 1988 and 1989, when someone stole cash, a videotape recorder, a car and several radios.
Mr. Jones, who had worked at the convent in the late 1980s as a painter and as an elevator installer for a private construction company, was arrested on March 3, 1989, and charged with burglary and theft in connection with one of those burglaries, police and convent officials said.
Prosecutors later dropped the charges, court records show.
Mr. Jones was convicted in North Carolina on a manslaughter charge, a Maryland corrections official said, although details on the crime were unavailable yesterday.
The same official said Mr. Jones had served prison time, but it was not clear how much and under what circumstances.
A police official said Mr. Jones was released from prison last month.
Sister MaryAnn, who was the superior of the order of nuns, appeared to have interrupted a burglary at the convent, investigators said. She was found, dressed in her night clothes, by another nun early Friday morning.
An autopsy completed by medical examiners yesterday showed she had been strangled, Agent Price said.
He said examiners are still trying to verify if Sister MaryAnn had been sexually assaulted.
"The matter of whether, and if so, in what manner, the victim was sexually assaulted is an aspect of this investigation not yet finalized," Agent Price said.
Investigators said the key piece of evidence leading to the identity of a suspect came from a fingerprint found at the crime scene. Police obtained a warrant charging Mr. Jones in the killing late Friday.
A sister at the convent, who acted as a spokesman for the order yesterday, said she remembered Mr. Jones quite well.
"I liked him. He was nice and seemed personable," said the sister, who asked that her name not be used because she is afraid. "We're very good to our work people, and often invite them to have a cup of coffee or to chat."
She said that shortly after he began working there, the break-ins began.
"It would seem that he was watching us while we weren't watching him," the sister said.
Recently, there were two break-ins at the order's outreach facility, the Franciscan Academy in the 2200 block of Maryland Ave., she said.
Police wouldn't comment on whether the suspect may have been involved in those break-ins.
"He was always nice to us. But looking back on it, I guess I'd call it smooth," the sister said.
Mr. Jones' last known address is in the 1600 block of E. 32nd St.
Police believe Sister MaryAnn was killed between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Friday.