Lutherville teen's slaying leaves many questions


On a hot July night, 19-year-old Patrick Benjamin Cawley lay in the middle of Clearspring Road, his head cradled in the arms of a stranger, dying, inexplicably, from a gunshot wound.

How the Lutherville teen was shot Friday night, and what he did in the last hours of his life before being found in North Baltimore, aren't known -- and may never be. Police still had no leads yesterday.

"It appears to be one of these random acts of senseless violence," his father, James Cawley, said yesterday. "He was done in by a handgun on a hot summer night in Baltimore," he said, one more victim in a week when 21 people were shot in Baltimore.

"Our foremost concern is honoring Patrick, but I work in public health, and I have a lot of concerns about handguns," said Mr. Cawley, 46, who teaches a public health course at George Washington University.

Patrick was shot in the chest and died on the same day his 19-year-old stepsister received a letter from Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, an organization trying to pass gun-control legislation and for which she has done volunteer work.

"People always think it can't happen to you, but handguns are everywhere. You don't have to be in a certain neighborhood," said Patti Gerhardt, who like her brother was home from college for the summer.

She and Patrick shared a special bond because they were the same age, 9, when her widowed mother and his widowed father married 10 years ago. Together with Patrick's younger sister Andi,who was 3 at the time, the five made what Mr. Cawley calls "a blended family."

Patti was the last member of the family to see Patrick alive Friday, waving at him about 7:40 p.m. as he drove past her on Westbury Road near York Road, en route to a hardware store to buy a carpet-cutting knife to use at his summer job.

He beeped his horn and cheerily waved back, she said.

The next time he was seen was about 10:55 that night, when residents near the corner of Clearspring and Orkney roads heard a crash and ran outside to find Patrick unconscious behind the wheel of his gray 1987 Volkswagen Jetta.

His car had just hit two parked vehicles on Clearspring in a quiet residential neighborhood and come to a halt at the end of a fence.

Smoke began pouring into the car, and 64-year-old John Brain pulled the teen-ager from the car while another neighbor ran for a fire extinguisher and a third called police.

"He wasn't wearing a seat belt, and there was a little blood on his shirt," said Mr. Brain. "We laid him in the middle of the road. We didn't know what had happened.

"I supported his head in my hand, and stroked his neck, trying in some way to comfort him," Mr. Brain said. "It could have been our boy, or anybody's boy. We didn't realize what was wrong until the paramedics came and rolled up his T-shirt and said, 'He's been shot.' "

At home, Patrick's parents were already in bed, sleeping in the light way that parents do while half-listening to hear when the children come in, Mrs. Cawley recalled yesterday, adding that they heard Patti come in but were not worried when they didn't hear Patrick.

"Pat will be out and say he's coming home, and it could be about 1 o'clock and he'll call and say 'I'm staying here,' " Mrs. Cawley said. "Sometimes he's called at 3:30 a.m., but he always calls. So when 12:30 came, I wasn't worried. I wasn't worried until Patti came upstairs and said there's a policeman at the door."

The couple rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where they were devastated to find that Patrick had died there at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

"I thought it was an accident. You hate to say it, but maybe he'd been drinking, or there just was a car accident, but when they said it was a gunshot wound, I said 'What do you mean, a gunshot wound?' I had prepared myself for an accident, not for violence."

A 1993 graduate of Loyola High School, Patrick was preparing for his junior year at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg. He and his roommate, Dave Frank, also 19, were planning to share an apartment this year.

"He was funny. Always happy. The nicest guy in the world," said Mr. Frank, of Lutherville. "I can't think of even one person who ever had anything bad to say about him. When I heard what happened, I didn't believe it. I'm angry. It's such a senseless thing."

This summer Patrick was working as a carpet installer to help pay for the Jetta his father had helped him to buy and spending the rest of the time hanging out with his friends. On Saturday, the group held a daylong vigil at the corner where Patrick's car was found, and placed flowers there.

Mr. and Mrs. Cawley and Patrick's sisters gave interview after interview, hoping media coverage would be a catalyst to finding clues about the slaying.

It's been two days now, and still no one knows what happened.

"We have no leads," said Detective Robert Bowman. "We have no idea where he was coming from, or where he was going. It appears he was shot from outside the car. His window was down. But we have no idea how long he would have lived to be able to drive to where he ended up."

Detective Bowman said no carpet-cutting knife was found in the car, and police were not sure if he had completed his errand.

Viewing hours at Ruck Towson Funeral Home are scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and tomorrow, and a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville.

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