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Counselor killed at Sheppard Pratt Woman was on duty overnight at cottage; missing youth sought


A counselor was found stabbed to death yesterday at a Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital cottage for teen-age boys, and a missing youth was being sought for questioning, police said.

Sharon Edwards, 28, of the first block of Sugar Plum Court in Cockeysville's Cinnamon Ridge Apartments, had been working her first overnight shift at Fordham Cottage, a secluded house for troubled adolescents.

Hospital security officials called police to the shingle and stone house on the Towson psychiatric hospital's campus at 2:44 a.m.

"There had been a small fire set at the cottage," said Baltimore County police Sgt. Ronald Stotler. "There were several incendiary devices found at the scene." He would not elaborate.

A youth at the cottage alerted hospital security staff to a porch fire at 2:34 a.m. Security officers found the body after putting out the fire.

Mark Eber, a hospital spokesman, said Ms. Edwards was the first counselor killed at the hospital since its opening in 1891.

Fordham Cottage was set up as a transition between hospital and home. It can accommodate up to six teen-age boys. Five youths were living there, and all but one were accounted for, Mr. Eber said.

Two were visiting relatives over the weekend, he said, and two were at the cottage.

Police were searching for the other youth, age 16, yesterday. Officers did not identify the youth as a suspect but said he was wanted for questioning. They did not release his name. The hospital is not gated, and a patient could easily walk away.

The young patients at Fordham Cottage have been moved to an adolescent wing in the main hospital, Mr. Eber said. Though the cottage's front porch was charred, the rest of the building appeared to have sustained only minor damage.

Hospital officials did not know when the youths would return to the cottage.

Ms. Edwards had worked at Sheppard Pratt for 14 months as a mental health counselor for teen-agers and adults.

Saturday's 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift was her first at Fordham Cottage. Overnight counselors "are there to watch over the adolescents" and stay awake all night, Mr. Eber said.

As investigators searched the cottage yesterday, a team of therapists worked with distraught staff members, Ms. Edwards' family and patients.

"This has been a real trying, traumatic day for a lot of people," Mr. Eber said.

The slaying has prompted an internal review of everything from clinical assessment of patient placements to safety issues, Mr. Eber said.

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