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Police look for leads in slayings of Cockeysville men


Baltimore County police were searching yesterday for leads in a double slaying that left two Cockeysville men floating in the shallow waters of a secluded cove at Loch Raven Reservoir.

Vernon Arthur Smith, 46, died from a blow to the head, and Vincent Brian Young, 26, was shot several times in the upper torso, police said. Their bodies were discovered Thursday night about 200 feet north of the Warren Road bridge, where investigators found a trail of blood and signs of a struggle.

Police believe Mr. Smith, who did not know Mr. Young, might have been killed after heading to a favorite fishing spot and stumbling onto a homicide scene. "We're still in the early stages of the investigation," said Capt. Rustin E. Price, commander of the homicide unit. "We have no motive yet. We have no suspects yet. We just don't know."

The last time Mr. Smith, the son-in-law of former county fire Chief Elwood "Woody" Banister, talked to his wife -- about 5:30 p.m. Thursday -- he said he was going fishing. About two hours after their phone conversation, Patty Smith drove by her husband's Jeep Cherokee, parked near the bridge, police said.

Mr. Smith "told his wife he was going fishing after an appointment he had fell through," said E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman. "So she had dinner with her father and family nearby and later drove home past the bridge where she saw his car parked. She figured he was fishing, so she went" to their

house on Glendorian Court.

After Mrs. Smith drove through that area, around 8:45 p.m., residents reported hearing shots fired in the woods, police said. Officers could not pinpoint where the shots had been fired, Mr. Miller said.

"It wasn't until later that night when he didn't return home that [Mrs. Smith] called Woody," Mr. Miller said. When Mr. Banister drove by the bridge and did not see his son-in-law's car parked there, family members notified police and filed a missing person's report around 10:30 p.m.

The two men's bodies were found a short time later by several members of the Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Company -- where Mr. Banister is a member -- Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Smith's fishing rod and tackle box were found on the shore, near where the bodies were found, police said, and there was evidence of a struggle at the spot where Mr. Smith had been fishing. A trail of blood led to the scene, police said.

A Honda motorcycle, belonging to Mr. Young, who lived on the 100 block of Sherwood Road, was found at the scene. Mr. Smith's Cherokee was later found at the Hunt Valley Golf Club about a mile from the crime scene.

Warren Road and Merryman's Mill Road were blocked off, about a mile in both directions from the bridge, most of yesterday as homicide detectives and a dog unit combed the area for evidence.

Outside Mr. Smith's home in Cockeysville, at least six cars lined the block, and relatives and friends, none of whom would give their names or talk at any length, walked in and out of the house. On the front porch, a man who identified himself as Mr. Smith's brother-in-law sat quietly.

Later, Mr. Smith's sister came outside and sat near him, her eyes red. She said that their mother, who lives in a nursing home, had not yet been informed of Mr. Smith's death.

A neighbor, who declined to give her name, said she and other neighbors were shaken by the slayings. The Smiths had a baby, she said.

Robert Goald, 46, a professor of communications at American University, has lived in the same house as Mr. Young, an insurance claims adjuster, for several years. He said Mr. Young was an avid hunter and weightlifter, who liked to fix cars bought at auctions in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Young had a sarcastic sense of humor, Mr. Goald said, adding, "He was pretty much a loner in many ways." Mr. Young had plans to travel and open a business, and was saving to buy a house, Mr. Goald added. "I'm rather shocked, and I'm saddened, because I think he had a lot of promise," he said.

Another housemate, Doug Ferris, said he was shocked when police told him early yesterday about Mr. Young's death. "I found out he was shot, and I thought, wow, I couldn't understand how that could happen unless he was robbed or something."

K? Police are asking anyone with information to call 887-2198.

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