A Perry Hall woman's 30th birthday party ended in violence early yesterday when a guest stepping into an argument was killed by a young man swinging a Samurai sword, authorities and witnesses said.
The victim, Noel Franke, 25, of the 7900 block of Marfield Place in Parkville, was nearly beheaded in the 1 a.m. attack, Baltimore County police said.
They said Mr. Franke, a drywall contractor, was killed as he attempted to stop a quarrel over food between the assailant and another man in the woman's townhouse in the 8800 block of Green Needle Drive.
Allen Leroy Hilton, a 19-year-old restaurant dishwasher who brought his 4-foot Samurai sword to the party, was arrested two hours after the slaying and charged with first-degree murder, police said.
Officers said they found Mr. Hilton hiding in a wooded area near an apartment complex across White Marsh Boulevard from the townhouse.
The bloody sword was found in a drainage ditch near White Marsh Boulevard at about 10 a.m., police said.
William C. Gawne, the father of a young woman who witnessed the slaying, said his daughter told him Mr. Hilton had brought the sword to the party as a conversation piece.
Kelly Dore, a clerk at a local convenience store who threw the birthday party for herself, declined yesterday to talk with reporters about the slaying, which took place in her living room.
On the front door of Ms. Dore's townhouse, a beer-promotion sign read, "You're entering the Twi-Lite-Zone."
Mr. Hilton was being held without bail in the county detention center pending a court hearing tomorrow.
"It was a birthday party gone bad," said Ben Pecunes, who lives next to the home where the slaying occurred.
"It was a loud party, and now people are saying that we should have called police to stop it earlier," Mr. Pecunes said.
Ross Dingman, another neighbor, said he awoke around 1 a.m. to the sound of a car speeding away and someone yelling, "Let's get the hell out of here!"
One of the partygoers, Whitney Cohen, said she ran out of the townhouse when Mr. Hilton started to quarrel with another man in the kitchen over food.
"I said, 'There's going to be a fight,' and got out of there. The next thing I know, I hear somebody say, 'He's unconscious! Call the police!' " said Ms. Cohen, a 23-year-old friend of Mr. Franke. "He was trying to break up the fight and now he's gone."
Yesterday, neighbors milled about the parking lot in disbelief in the neat, quiet community known as Evergreen at Perry Hall, near Putty Hill Avenue and White Marsh Boulevard.
Mr. Gawne said Mr. Hilton was a friend of his 19-year-old daughter, whom he declined to name.
"He has cut my grass, been a guest in my home and taken my daughter out," Mr. Gawne said of Mr. Hilton.
"He's always seemed to be a very sober and careful young man. He was quiet and helpful, and on the surface of it, I'd be proud to have him as a son," he said. "This was totally, unexpectedly and entirely out of his character."
Mr. Gawne said that Mr. Hilton had studied martial arts, and had bought the Samurai sword two weeks ago and brought it to the Gawne home near Perry Hall to show it off.
The Samurai warrior's sword, known as a katana, has a curved blade, and is perhaps the deadliest sword ever designed, experts say, because a single stroke from the steel blade can sever a head or split a skull.
Mr. Gawne said that Mr. Hilton had told him that his brother, a soldier who had been stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., had been shot in the leg by a 60 mm shell during fighting in Somalia last week.