LA PLATA -- Friends of Charles Henry Emanuel described him yesterday as a good son, a hard worker and a loyal and generous friend who never so much as raised his voice to anyone before May 18, 1992.
That was the day that Emanuel broke into a northern Baltimore County home and attacked a terrified, elderly deaf couple and their friend. Beaten and stabbed to death were Margaret Attwell, 70, and Clara Vickers, 86.
Mrs. Attwell's husband, James, 73, was beaten and stabbed but survived.
The jury that convicted Emanuel of the murders Tuesday is now considering whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison. Yesterday, jurors heard a dozen character witnesses describe him as a good man, and several expressed faith in his innocence.
"I sit here and I still can't believe that the man who killed those two people was Charles," said Samuel Alascio, a friend of Emanuel's since the two met at Alcoholics Anonymous in the early 1980s.
"When I heard about this, it just shocked me totally," said Nathaniel Miles, Emanuel's boss at Harford Community College in Bel Air for seven years. "I couldn't believe it was the same person."
The portrait of 31-year-old Emanuel that emerged in court yesterday did little to explain what might have caused him to commit the crime, other than a relapse into drug and alcohol in the aftermath of his mother's death.
There was no psychological testimony and no claim of temporary insanity.
His attorneys did present testimony that hinted at a cause. Raised in a strict family environment, where emotions were never expressed, Emanuel had emotional difficulties after his mother died in February 1992, several witnesses said.
Family and friends said he with drew into himself, and though he claimed to be all right, they noticed a definite change in his personality. "It wasn't the same old happy-go-lucky Charlie," one said.
A social worker who interviewed Emanuel six times in preparing a family history, said he told her that he broke eight years of sobriety a month after his mother died.
"He had a relapse when someone spiked his drink with LSD at a Grateful Dead concert," testified Lori James of Columbia. She said he told her he began drinking again, as well as smoking crack cocaine at least once a week during the weeks leading up to the murders.
"His mother's death had a great impact on him, as it would with anyone else," said Ms. James. "With Charles, he was not able to verbalize any of the pain."
The youngest of three brothers, Emanuel had a close relationship with his mother and cared for her during a long illness leading up to her death, his father, James, and two brothers, Larry and Raymond, testified.
An average student in school, Emanuel attended University of Maryland at Baltimore County until he was dismissed in May 1982 for bad grades and for beer parties in his dormitory room, said Ms. James.
In 1984, Emanuel turned his life around, getting a job in the mail room at Harford Community College and joining Alcoholics Anonymous. He became active in AA, often leading group meetings.
Richard Wharton, of Perryville, said he became close friends with Emanuel through AA meetings. Emanuel became, and still is, Mr. Wharton's sponsor, an AA term for someone to turn to and talk with.
He said if Emanuel were sentenced to death, he would be devastated.
"It's really going to hurt me," said Mr. Wharton. "There's a man sitting here I'll never forget. He's like a brother. I know of all the good he's done for people. And I know damn well there's a lot of good left in him."