The Green Spring Valley is home to handsome estates, rolling pastures with grazing horses -- and, now, a certain uneasiness from a mysterious and violent crime that shattered the peace of this wealthy community nestled north of the Baltimore Beltway.
Baltimore County police are investigating the shooting Sunday night of William E. Lamble Jr., 76, a retired food company executive who was wounded by a shotgun blast fired through his window while he sat watching television with his wife in their den.
Mr. Lamble was listed in critical but stable condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center yesterday. A family member said one of the shotgun pellets might have affected Mr. Lamble's vision.
Investigators said they had found no motive or suspects.
Calm usually pervades the stretch of Greenspring Avenue just south of Greenspring Valley Road.
"We don't bother people, and people don't bother the folks out here. We like to keep to ourselves," said Jack Moore, a groundskeeper in the valley for nearly 10 years.
Neighbors spoke in glowing terms about Mr. Lamble, a one-time champion squash player who didn't officially retire from his executive position with Southern Packing Co. until two years ago.
Another neighbor threatened to call police when a reporter came to her door.
"We are horrified at this, this random act of violence," said the victim's nephew, Philip Franke.
Mr. Franke said his uncle was watching television from his favorite chair next to a front window when he was hit by a shotgun blast about 8:40 p.m.
His wife, Florence, reported to police that she "heard an explosion and saw glass flying."
E. Jay Miller, county police spokesman, said Mrs. Lamble then activated a security alarm and phoned their next-door neighbor, who called the 911 emergency number.
Police arrived within minutes and found the victim near the stairs.
The neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said she has known the Lambles for 25 years and that "they are some of the nicest people I've ever known. I was sitting in my kitchen when I heard the gun go off."
Gunfire is not unheard of in the area, where hunters sometimes spotlight deer and shoot them in nearby fields, Mr. Moore said.
But Sunday's shooting has police puzzled. The shooter was probably no more than 6 feet from the house when the shotgun, apparently loaded with buckshot, was aimed at the front window and fired, hitting Mr. Lamble in the left side of the head.
Two small panes of glass in the front door were also shattered, perhaps in an attempt to enter the house, police said.
The Lamble residence, which sits about 100 yards from the road in the 10700 block of Greenspring Avenue, is connected to the two-lane road by a semicircular asphalt driveway.
Yesterday, a police officer was combing through bushes next to the house looking for clues.
"This is a strange case," Mr. Miller said. "The victim had no apparent enemies, and neighbors didn't see anything. Our detectives are looking at the backgrounds of both occupants of the house to see if anything is there."
Mr. Lamble was retired from Southern Packing, which produced canned and frozen fruit for yogurt and ice cream makers. Mrs. Lamble is the owner of the Dress Circle in nearby Stevenson.
The shooting victim is a native of Baltimore and a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University. He dominated singles squash competition in the late 1940s and through the following decade. In 1964, he was ranked third in the nation in the senior doubles category.
"He had terrific spirit. I'll never forget when he beat the best player at the Naval Academy when he was in his 40s," Mr. Franke said.
His nephew said Mr. Lamble was retained as a consultant by Southern Packing after the company was sold about two years ago.
Mr. Moore, the groundskeeper, said, "My wife cooks and cleans in homes around here, and I work as a groundskeeper . . . but Mr. Lamble treats us like we're one of his own. Every Christmas, he leaves a huge bag of apples at my front door. Like I said, he never bothered nobody."