Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Impostor tries to assume slaying victim's identity

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The unsolved, execution-style slayings of John and Lori Temple in their Parkville apartment in December have generated a mystery within a mystery: Who has assumed the dead man's identity?

Within weeks of the killings, a man closely resembling Mr. Temple-- in his 20s, thin, with black hair and a mustache -- tried to register to vote using the victim's name and birth date in both Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Although those efforts were thwarted, the impostor succeeded in renewing a Maryland driver's license in Mr. Temple's name in January at the Motor Vehicle Administration's Glen Burnie headquarters.

He apparently had enough proof of identify to satisfy security measures the MVA installed in response to the Dontay Carter case, in which the teen-ager easily obtained a replacement driver's license in the name of the 37-year-old man he murdered in 1992.

"This fellow showed what he needed to convince the clerk, because he got a new license," said MVA spokesman James P. Lang.

Whether the impostor is implicated in the Temple killings or is an opportunist using the name of a dead man is unknown. But Mr. Lang said that his scheme is obvious.

"This man is trying to build up a whole identity as one document begets another," he said. "He is going from one credential that everyone has to another that everyone has and tries to squeak by."

Usually, when a license is renewed, the old license is exchanged for the new one. But Mr. Temple's father, John J. Temple, said he had returned his son's license to authorities, who let him keep the photograph from it.

The impostor applied for renewal Jan. 29, five days after Mr. Temple's license expired on what would have been his 27th birthday.

In response to an inquiry Wednesday from The Sun, Mr. Lang said that because the license information had been computerized, the impostor's original application has been destroyed. He said it may be impossible to identify the clerk whohandled it or find out what identification the impostor offered.

Mr. Lang said the MVA has a copy of the impostor's signature and the photo it took for the new license. However, he would not release either, citing a Schaefer administration law enacted this year banning their release except to specific persons or agencies such as the police.

The MVA annulled the fraudulent license Friday after the Maryland health department confirmed Mr. Temple's death. That means any police officer who stops the man and checks the license will be alerted. Mr. Lang also said the MVA has begun its own investigation into the matter.

The MVA spokesman said that when someone tries to replace a lost license or renew one without exchanging the original, other identification is required, such as a birth or baptismal certificate, passport, military identification card, U.S. citizenship certificate, alien registration card, an out-of-state driver's license or ID card -- or Social Security card.

Social Security cards were not designed for positive identification, said Tom Margenau, a Social Security spokesman, but a Social Security card can lend credibility to other identification documents.

Mr. Margenau said federal privacy regulations prohibited him from disclosing whether anyone had applied for a replacement Social Security card in Mr. Temple's name. But he said his agency asks for a photo-bearing ID, such as a driver's license, when anyone tries to replace a lost Social Security card.

The MVA, under the procedures it established late last year, retains a digital photograph of each driver in its computer system, Mr. Lang said. Previously, a Polaroid picture placed on the license was the only print.

However, there is no photo database for drivers whose licenses were issued before the new system was put in place. The impostor was able to renew the dead man's license under the old system of providing alternative identification.

The slayings of Mr. Temple and his wife, Lori, 22, shocked the quiet neighborhood around the Taylor Park East Apartments where they lived and have puzzled police. The victims were bound with duct tape and their throats cut.

Mr. Temple, who worked at a nearby Jiffy Lube, was last seen alive at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 3, when he started his car and returned to his apartment. The bodies were found about 10 a.m. when residents called the apartment management because the car was still idling, and the couple's dog was barking. Police found that a tire had been punctured on the 1980 Camaro.

When a maintenance man entered the apartment, he found Mrs. Temple dead, 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 and no ransacking.

Mr. Temple's wallet was found with his identification intact.

Police said that they believe the Temples were targeted, but that drugs were involved. They were a young, hard-working couple with no criminal background. One theory is that they might have been slain in a case of mistaken identity.

The imposture began in January as Baltimore County Police sought leads in the slayings. A man who resembled Mr. Temple " went to the county elections board and filled out a voter registration form in Mr. Temple's name. He demanded a voter card immediately, but left in a rage when the clerk said she could only send it by mail.

The man returned in March, but the clerk recognized him. This time he was asked for identification, which is not usually required because registration is done under oath. He left after saying his wallet was in his car, said Doris J. Suter, the elections board administrator.

The deception was uncovered after the March visit, when Mrs. Suter, curious, sent a card to the address the man gave, asking him to call the elections board about his registration. Mr. Temple's father received the card and told Mrs. Suter that his son had been murdered.

Mrs. Suter notified the county homicide squad. She said that when she described the impostor to detectives, they told her, "You're describing the dead man."

To compound the mystery, in late April the city elections board sent Mrs. Suter a registration application filled out in the name of John Kenneth Temple, with the Temples' Marjeff Place address but with a ZIP code on Baltimore's west side.

Mr. Temple said he has no idea who might be trying to assume his son's identity. But he noted that the impostor knew that his son was born at Union Memorial Hospital and gave officials the correct apartment number on Marjeff Place.

"It has to be someone who knew him," Mr. Temple said.

Handwriting analysts concluded that the same person signed both registration cards, said Baltimore County Police spokesman Jay Miller.

He asked anyone who might be able to help identify the man to call police communications at (410) 887-2198.

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