A young mother stabbed to death in front of her three children last night at the family's small apartment building in East Baltimore became the city's 335th murder victim, tying last year's record -- and making it inevitable that 1993 will be the city's deadliest ever.
The latest victim, who was not immediately identified, was killed shortly before 10 p.m. with what police described as "a miniature samarai sword" in her apartment in the 1500 block of Ward Court.
Statistics released this week by police paint a picture of Baltimore's murder climate as being primarily black-on-black crime, with increasing numbers of juveniles being slain by gunfire.
But although the statistics are grim, the symbolism of some of the murders has tainted the city's image even further. Above all else, 1993 will probably be remembered as the year when Baltimore crime reached such a low that not even a nun was safe in her convent.
Sister MaryAnn Glinka, 51, was found March 19, strangled and sexually assaulted after being bound and gagged at the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore Motherhouse Community at 3725 Ellerslie Ave. The killer, Melvin Lorenzo Jones, 34, a habitual drug user who police believe had burglarized the convent before, was later sentenced to life without parole.
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke remarked on the day of Sister MaryAnn's death: "We lose a little each time someone is victimized. Certain crimes carry with them very heavy symbolism . . . I know the profound symbolism that is conveyed when a crime like this occurs. I recognize the damage that is done in terms of the image of the city."
The remainder of the year did little to improve the city's crime image. Among the sensational murders that followed:
* Jack Freeman, an 85-year-old Jehovah's Witness who used a wheelchair, was found repeatedly stabbed April 16 after an intruder broke into his East Baltimore apartment. The same complex was the site of another burglary-murder on Feb. 12, in which another Jehovah's witness, Amelia Scott, 58, was stabbed. A man was charged in both slayings.
* Veteran Baltimore Police Officer Herman A. Jones Sr., 50, was shot to death May 26 while off duty -- and still in uniform -- in a robbery at a Chinese carryout in the 1500 block of N. Gay St. Three teen-agers were later charged.
* Towson State senior Joel J. Lee, 21, was fatally shot just below the right eye on Sept. 3 in a street robbery by four young thugs outside the Dutch Village apartments in Northeast Baltimore. The student wandered into a rough neighborhood looking for a friend's house to borrow a book.
* Tauris Johnson, 10, was shot to death Nov. 4 while playing football in front of his East Baltimore home. Police said the boy was caught in a drug dealers' shootout. A paroled New York drug dealer was charged with the crime earlier this week.
"These people were martyrs, taken down by the new brand of violence," said the Rev. Willie Ray, who for the last eight years has protested Baltimore's violence with "Stop the Killing" rallies on city streets.
"I call it the new brand because I believe it's coming from some kind of underground school. Parents didn't teach this violence. We've got criminals out there nowadays with no hearts. It's demonic. They must have grown up eating rats," Mr. Ray said.
The violence has even touched Mr. Ray personally: On Nov. 24, a 16-year-old boy was shot in front of his Harlem Avenue home, and he prayed for the boy as he lay dying on the sidewalk.
Police said the latest victim was in her apartment with several friends and her children about 9:45 last night when she became involved in an argument with a man whom she told to leave.
A friend left the apartment to call the police and returned to find the door locked. Admitted by one of the crying children, the friend found the victim lying dead in a bedroom with multiple stab wounds, police said. The man believed to have killed her was being sought late last night.
The children -- a 4-year-old boy, and girls ages 3 and 2 -- were not physically harmed. They were taken to the home of their grandmother by an aunt, police said.
92% of victims are black
Of the 295 murder victims between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 -- the most current date for which statistics were available -- about 92 percent were black, according to city police.
Similarly, 201 of the 212 suspects identified in murder cases were black, statistics showed.
Rodney Orange, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and whose 22-year-old son was murdered here in a February 1988 burglary, pointed to the availability of guns and the growing frustration of inner-city youths.
"It's amazing to me that these youngsters are getting these guns so readily on the streets," Mr. Orange said. "A lot of these murders are drug-related. But a percentage of it is just anger and frustration. The kids have to learn that it doesn't take a gun to resolve a minor conflict."
Police report that 37 of this year's murder victims through today were under the age of 18. Included in that figure are eight children under the age of 10, several of whom were hit by stray bullets during gunfights on the street.
Thirty-three juveniles were identified as suspects between January and October. More than 100 of the suspects were age 23 or younger.
"The youth of the victims and of the suspects is very disturbing. What it says to me is that the juvenile justice system hasn't been able to send a hard and clear message to the juveniles who are going astray," said Mr. Orange.
Statistics show that most of the city's murders (73.2 percent) are committed with handguns, and the likelihood that a gun will be used increases with the youth of the suspect. For instance, of the murder suspects who were under age 21, 89 percent used a handgun in the commission of their crimes.
The most common age of Baltimore murder victims is 23 (18 killed as of Nov. 1), although victims' ages ranged from 1 to 87. Eighty-five percent of the victims were male.
Other statistics show:
* The deadliest day of the week in Baltimore is Wednesday (54 murders), followed by Thursday (44). The day with the fewest murders is Monday (30).
* Knives were used in 12.9 percent of murder cases, followed by blunt instrument (3.1 percent), fire (2.4 percent) and shotguns (1.4 percent).
* Sixty percent of all murders occur on the street, compared to 21.7 percent in homes.
The city's record-breaking homicide totals in the past two years are especially significant in light of the fact that the previous homicide record of 330 was set in 1972, a year when there were nearly 170,000 more people living in the city.