WHENEVER my travels take me out Washington Boulevard, through Morrell Park on the southwestern edge of the city, over the B&O; railroad tracks and past DeSoto Road, I think of Jimmy Reid and assume - because I've never heard otherwise - that his killer is still loose.
This happened again just before Easter.
For the first time in many months, I drove past the bar where Jimmy Reid had taken his last beer - it used to be called the Double B; for eight years, it's been the Purple Goose - and thought of him. I pictured the simple, clean, almost boyish face of a 45-year-old man, his hair short and wavy and combed in conservative postwar style; the last photographs of Jimmy Reid looked as though they could have been taken in 1947, instead of 1987.
So I had my flash of memory as I passed DeSoto Road.
Three hours later, I returned to my office and culled the personal letters from a stack of fresh mail. I got a little shaken from what I found - a handwritten note from Jimmy Reid's sister.
She wanted to remind me of the approaching 10th anniversary of his murder.
And, as I suspected, the murder is still unsolved.
It occurred 10 years ago - April 11, 1987.
Jimmy Reid, a bachelor who was employed as an electrician's helper, lived on DeSoto Road with his parents. His mother cashed his $207.84 paycheck for him on Friday, April 10. That evening, Reid walked up to Washington Boulevard to visit a couple of bars, have a few beers and talk with friends. He took only a small amount of cash with him, leaving most of his money in his room.
Sometime after midnight, he left the Double B alone and walked home. Just 40 or 50 steps short of his parents' house, Reid encountered his killer. This person - never identified, never even described; there are no known witnesses - robbed Reid of his wallet, then slashed his throat. Reid's body was found about 2:15 a.m. There were defense wounds on his knuckles and fingers.
Two years later, when I wrote a column about the still-unsolved murder, a photograph of Reid appeared with the words, "Almost made it home."
"The case is still open, and the killer is still loose," says the letter I received from Doris Czincilla, Reid's sister, just before Easter this year.
"My father passed away June 13, 1994," she adds. ""My beautiful mother passed away last November. She was 81 when Jimmy was murdered. In the last two years of her life, with her illness and all, she would ask me, 'Where is Jimmy?' I would tell her a little white lie and say he was out of town on a job. I couldn't cope to see her heart break again."
Doris Czincilla enclosed a flier she had distributed a few years ago; it bears a photograph of Jimmy Reid's smiling face, a few words about the circumstances of his murder and the phone number for Metro Crime Stoppers (276-8888).
She, of course, wants the case solved. "If he had died of natural causes, I would have been able to accept it," she said. "But I can't let it go because of the way he died."
I remember going with her to her murdered brother's room in 1989. Everything had been left as it was the night of his murder. What I saw were the modest effects of a modest man - cups and jars filled with coins and pay stubs, bottles of hair tonic and after-shave, a pocket-size New Testament. Tacked to the frame around the window above his bed were palm branches, turned brown and brittle by the sun.
I also recall standing with Doris Czincilla on DeSoto Road. We were across the street and a half-block up from the shingled house where the Reids had lived. Forty or 50 more steps and Jimmy would have made it home safely. There was still a stain in the sidewalk from his blood.
"The sidewalk with the blood stain of my murdered brother has been replaced with new pavement. The stain is gone, but the memory of it will never go away," says Jimmy Reid's sister, who lives with the memory of his murder every day of her life - not just when she passes by DeSoto Road.
I think I'll leave it at that today. Coming Wednesday: Follow up on other TJI stories, including a little collision between the city's fast-paced housing demolition program and volunteer efforts to get a West Baltimore widow back into her fire-damaged rowhouse. This columnist can be contacted by voice mail at 410-332-6166, by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, by e-mail at TJIDAN
aol.com, or through the World Wide Web at http://www.sunspot.net.
Pub Date: 4/14/97