Blood sample from 1986 leads to arrest of slaying suspect Evidence found on body of Overlea woman, 63


Blood from a decade-old slaying investigation apparently led Baltimore County police to the man charged in the December killing of a 63-year-old Overlea woman.

Evelyn J. Cunningham was found stabbed and beaten in the bathroom of her home in the 400 block of Old Home Road on Dec. 10. An autopsy revealed she had been raped.

Tuesday, county police charged her next-door neighbor, Donald W. Jones, 25, with first-degree murder and burglarizing her home.

Police said evidence recovered from Cunningham's body was compared with a blood sample taken from Jones a decade ago in an unrelated investigation.

Cunningham's relatives said they were told by police that Jones' blood was drawn 10 years ago when Laura Lynn Byrd, 13, who also lived in the 400 block of Old Home Road, was found slain in nearby Belmar Park.

Police would not confirm the details of the Byrd case, saying only that the investigation is still open.

Jones, according to neighbors, lived with his mother in a semidetached house in the 400 block of Old Home Road at the time of the girl's slaying. He was not charged in that case.

On Sept. 1, 1986, police found Byrd's body under bushes in Belmar Park, a short distance from Old Home Road. An autopsy revealed that she had died from a severe beating to her head and had a large wound on her throat.

According to newspaper reports, detectives interviewed several teen-agers -- including Byrd's brother and a friend -- who had been with her during a party the night she disappeared.

Cunningham's relatives were relieved that an arrest had been made in the December slaying.

"It just goes to prove you never know who lives next door to you," said daughter-in-law Cindy Cunningham. "When the police called and told us about the arrest, we just sat down and cried."

dTC Jones has a criminal record of drug and burglary charges dating back five years, according to court documents. He was released from prison Nov. 21 -- about two weeks before the Cunningham slaying -- after serving two years of a 12-year sentence for a burglary conviction.

Jones began working two jobs and was required to report to his probation officer at least twice a month, as well as submit to drug testing four times a month, according to corrections records.

Cunningham, who lived alone, was found stabbed and beaten in her bathtub, after she did not show up at her job as head cashier at Home Depot. Police found her 1987 Eddie Bauer-model Ford Bronco parked four blocks away.

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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