As family and friends prepared to bury John and Lori Temple this morning, Baltimore County police remained baffled by last Friday's murder of the young Parkville couple, who seemed such unlikely targets for a coldblooded, execution-style slaying.
Mr. Temple, 26, and his 22-year-old wife were to be laid to rest in Parkwood Cemetery after a 10 a.m. funeral Mass today at the Shrine of the Little Flower Church.
Their violent deaths stunned residents of the quiet Taylor Park East Apartments in the 4000 block of Marjeff Road. Both had their throats slit. Plastic bags were reportedly found over their heads and their arms were bound with duct tape.
The brutal, cold efficiency of their killings and the fact that virtually all visible clues were swept from the scene also sent a sinister message, according to family, friends and police.
"The murders were planned, and the Temples were targeted," one law enforcement source said. "No weapons were left behind."
Police said they don't believe that narcotics played a hand in the murders because both victims were hard-working young adults with no criminal records and had told friends they wanted to have their first baby. Both were employed, and until recently, Mr. Temple worked two jobs.
One theory investigators are exploring is that one or both victims saw or knew something that made them a threat to criminals. Another is that the killings were a horrible error, a case of mistaken identity.
Mr. Temple, a friend said, had recently borrowed $1,000 for the couple's move to a new residence.
The funeral was delayed because neither victim had life insurance, and relatives were unable to pay for burial expenses. Friends and co-workers collected $1,500 to cover the costs.
Pat Jankins, co-owner of the Jiffy Lube auto service center in Rosedale where Mr. Temple worked for more than five years, was so surprised when the reliable Mr. Temple didn't show up for work last Friday that she drove to his home to see what had gone wrong.
"He developed from a somewhat typical, shaggy-haired teen-ager to into a young man who was very responsible. . . . He opened up in the morning -- that's how much I trusted him," Ms. Jankins said.
She said Mr. Temple worked 11-hour days and had just quit his second job so he and his wife could spend more time together, planning a new home and their first child.
"He was very compassionate to old people because his grandparents pretty much raised him, and he absolutely loved kids," Ms. Jankins said.
"He was a basic kind of person who liked things like hot rods and tropical fish; that's why these killings are so bizarre," she added.
Edward Szpara, the owner of Good Stuff Cheap, a store in the Parkville Shopping Center where Mrs. Temple worked, donated $500 for the funeral.
He said he had known Mrs. Temple for more than a year. "She was quiet and had a face that when she smiled, she lit up. That's why this is such a shock," Mr. Szpara said.
Interviews with family members, friends and police indicate that Mr. Temple, as was his daily routine, started his car about 6:30 a.m. and returned to his apartment while the engine warmed up. Police later found that a tire on his 1980 Camaro had been punctured.
One theory is that the killer or killers knew the routine, hid in the basement laundry room and entered the apartment while Mrs. Temple was alone.
"Neither one of them was physically large; they couldn't have put up much of a struggle," Ms. Jankins said.
About 10 a.m., after calls from residents complaining that the Camaro was still running and the Temples' dog was barking, the apartment management dispatched a maintenance man to the apartment. He found Mrs. Temple, clothed and on her back on the living room floor.
He called police who, minutes later, found Mr. Temple's body in the bedroom. Detectives said there was no forced entry into the apartment and no ransacking.
Mrs. Temple's parents, residents of Northeast Baltimore, would not comment on the case.
Mr. Temple's mother, Linda, lives off a disability pension in a small Dundalk apartment. She seemed dazed over her son's death.
"He was a pretty good kid, stayed out of trouble," she said. "He really loved animals. I remember when he was 8 or 9, got this mouse and built a leash for it. He would walk it around the banister.
"I won't rest easy," she said. "He was cheated; I was cheated. Their whole lives were in front of them. I was really proud of him, of how he turned out so responsible."