Baltimore County police are looking for an intruder who shot a 44-year-old Hebbville woman to death in an upstairs bedroom of her home late Friday, just before one of the woman's grown daughters stopped by.
Wanda Johnson was home alone when the intruder entered the rear of the two-story, yellow duplex in the 7100 block of Bexhill Road, west of the Baltimore Beltway shortly before 11 p.m., police said.
Monica Wilson, 27, one of Mrs. Johnson's four daughters, was dropping off her 4-year-old son when she heard her mother screaming and the sound of breaking glass, family members said yesterday.
Frightened and unable to enter the house, Mrs. Wilson ran down the street to her aunt's home and dialed 911 for help, family members said.
Three minutes after police received the emergency phone call, officers entered the house and found Mrs. Johnson shot several times in the chest. Police said she was shot with a pistol, but they would not disclose the type. Her assailant had vanished.
Mrs. Johnson was dressed in night clothes when the intruder apparently entered an unlocked back door, Baltimore County Police spokesman E. Jay Miller said.
She apparently had tried to call for help by breaking a window in the bedroom. Police said there was little blood and few signs of a struggle. They said they were uncertain whether Mrs. Johnson had been sexually assaulted.
"The house was immaculate," Mr. Miller said. "It was very neat and very clean."
Police said the intruder apparently left through the back door he had entered. They said they found no evidence of ransacking and no weapon.
Sgt. Eric Tischner of the Woodlawn police district said that crime in the neighborhood has been "pretty minimal" in the past several months.
Police described the intruder as a black man, 18 to 22 years old, 5 feet 6inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, of medium build and light complexion with a thin mustache. At the time of the burglary, he was wearing a black skull cap, black, hooded sweat shirt, black trousers and black sneakers.
Mrs. Johnson's husband of 18 years, Ellwood Johnson, was at work at a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. facility near the Fort McHenry Tunnel at the time of the shooting. When he arrived home, summoned by a relative, he said "the whole block was full of police."
He said that as he got out of his car, "My daughter called me and said, 'Mommy's dead.' "
Yesterday, Mr. Johnson remembered his wife as a generous and loving person who died a senseless death.
"She's a beautiful person. She would help anybody," he said. "It's a useless killing. [The assailant] did not have to do that."
Family members echoed Mr. Johnson's sentiments.
"She would take the shirt off her back to help anyone," said Paulette Wickham, Mrs. Johnson's sister.
"She was very genuine with everyone," said Leroy Taylor, a family friend who recalled Ms. Johnson's culinary abilities. "Mrs. Johnson used to wipe me out with all her Sunday cooking -- roast beef, green peas, mashed potatoes with gravy; nothing instant, everything home-made."
Mrs. Johnson had worked in the shipping department of a credit card manufacturer on Reisterstown Road for about five years. The Southwest Baltimore native and Douglass High School graduate previously spent 18 years as a courier at Maryland General Hospital, Ms. Wickham said.
As relatives and friends fondly recalled Mrs. Johnson, they also searched for answers.
"She never did anything" to anybody, said Ms. Wickham. "Why? Why kill her, for what? It's not right."
Friends said they didn't know what the burglar sought. Nothing apparently was taken from the house, family members said.
Now, Ms. Wickham said she is struggling to explain Mrs. Johnson's death to the woman's five grandchildren, who range in age from 3 months to 10 years. One grandson asked for Mrs. Johnson yesterday.
"I told him she went to sleep," she said. "I can't tell him" the truth.
Family members said they may never understand why Mrs. Johnson died.
"This is crazy," Mr. Taylor said. "This is really crazy."