Police suspect murder-suicide in woman's death Highland mother, boyfriend found shot in bedroom


Friends and neighbors of a single mother and part-time tutor expressed shock yesterday that she had been slain, apparently by a boyfriend who then killed himself.

The bodies of Ellie Kasten, 37, and Robert Harris, 44, were discovered about 8 p.m. Friday in Kasten's Highland home in Howard County by friends who worried because she hadn't picked up her 7-year-old son from camp.

Police said that Kasten was shot in the head and face about 1: 30 a.m. Friday.

Harris' body was found near Kasten's in the master bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head. Police said their investigation points to a murder-suicide, but they are awaiting results from an autopsy and forensic tests.

"She was just a loving mother," said Deirdre Barcomb, a neighbor. "She was active in her son's school. She was struggling to survive a divorce and as a single mother."

Friends said Kasten walked down Isle in the Skye Drive every day to meet her son's school bus and volunteered at Clarksville Elementary School.

About a year ago, Kasten moved there from Mink Hollow Road in Highland, where she had lived with her then-husband, Craig Schwartz.

It was there she met Harris, who lived on the street. Harris recently left his wife and moved to Silver Spring, said neighbors and friends.

On Friday, Kasten didn't pick up her son from camp. The boy had spent Thursday night at his father's home and was dropped off at camp Friday morning.

A friend, along with two neighbors, Nancy and Mike Fitzpatrick, entered Kasten's home and began calling her name. They thought something was wrong when they found her purse on the kitchen counter.

"We knew she was in the house then," Nancy Fitzpatrick said. "I even said, 'This isn't good.' "

Then, after climbing the stairs, Nancy Fitzpatrick saw a man lying beside Kasten's bed.

They immediately left the home. Police later found both bodies in the master bedroom.

"She was a nice and sweet woman," Nancy Fitzpatrick said. "It just wasn't like her to not pick up her son."

Funeral services for Kasten will be held at 2 p.m. today graveside at Judean Gardens on Georgia Avenue in Olney, a relative said.

Researcher Andrea Wilson contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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