Man accused of beheading Gypsy matriarch had asked for her advice


The man accused of decapitating the matriarch of a Gypsy family Wednesday had sought advice from the East Baltimore fortune-teller several times, but police said yesterday they had not determined a motive for the slaying.

Douglas Thomas Clark, 28, refused to talk to homicide detectives. But police said that several "unsolicited statements" he made at Johns Hopkins Hospital -- after an apparent suicide attempt -- led rescue workers and nurses to believe he was involved in the killing.

Mr. Clark was taken into custody Wednesday morning -- about two hours after the body of Deborah Stevens was found in her Pulaski Highway home -- when he tried to throw himself under a moving Amtrak train.

He was taken by ambulance to Hopkins, where he was treated for minor injuries. Hospital staff members called police after he allegedly shouted out the statements, but a police spokesman would not elaborate on what was said.

The spokesman, Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr., also said police recovered "a tremendous amount of physical evidence" from Ms. Stevens' house and from the suspect, but declined to give details.

Ms. Stevens, 62, who lived and worked out of her house in the 4000 block of Pulaski Highway for three decades, was the matriarch of what was once one of the nation's largest Gypsy clans. She was the daughter-in-law of King Dick Stevens, a national Gypsy leader who moved to Baltimore in the early 1900s and ran a Cherry Hill coppersmith shop until he died in 1959.

Yesterday, dozens of relatives and friends gathered to make funeral arrangements, while guarding their privacy and speaking only through a lawyer whose family has represented the Stevens clan for three generations.

"They don't know what they are going to do yet," said the lawyer, Preston Pairo Jr. "They are distraught that some customer seeking counsel would explode and do such a dastardly thing."

More than 12 hours after Mr. Clark, who lives in the 2200 block of E. Lombard St., was charged with first-degree murder, detectives continued to interview potential witnesses.

Yesterday, Dr. James Locke of the state medical examiner's office said Ms. Stevens died of "multiple cutting wounds to the head and neck." She had no other injuries, he said.

Police said they still were searching for a murder weapon last night, and Dr. Locke would not speculate about what kind of weapon caused the wounds.

Tyrone Clark, 17, said he did not know why his brother met with the fortune teller. "He didn't talk much," the teen-ager said, declining further comment.

The suspect was ordered held without bail by a court commissioner, and was scheduled for a bail review in front of a District Court judge yesterday morning. But police said he tried to run from corrections officers who went to pick him up at the Eastern District station about 5 a.m., and was injured during a scuffle in the cellblock.

Barbara Cooper, a spokeswoman for the state division of pretrial detention, said Mr. Clark was taken to Church Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries. From there, he was taken to the Baltimore City Detention Center, and he was being held last night in the infirmary.

Detectives are reviewing records from Ms. Stevens' house, but have not figured out why the suspect visited her, said Col. Ronald L. Daniel, chief of the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

"Who knows what was going through his mind," the colonel said. "The guy would not talk to us at all."

Police said a witness saw Ms. Stevens arguing with a man outside her house the morning her body was discovered by a relative. The body was found near the front door in the living room; the head was about 10 feet away.

Mr. Pairo said the victim's family does not know the suspect, and doesn't know the nature of his visits.

"One relative said, 'My God, if they want to rob or take her money, or even kill her, that's one thing,' " Mr. Pairo said. "But to cut her head off? They find that beyond comprehension."

The viewing is being held at Della Noce & Sons Funeral Home on South High Street, tomorrow and Sunday between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. The family plans to hold the funeral Monday, but a church has not been selected yet. A march to Western Cemetery, where many Gypsies are buried, also will be on Monday.

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