Police hunt for answers in slaying Woman, 35, described as 'dedicated' mother, 'brilliant' statistician; Victim died of knife wounds


Sara J. Williamson Raras, a statistician and mother of a young child, was writing a novel about a statistician trying to solve a murder.

On Sunday, authorities began their own murder mystery -- investigating the killing of Raras, who was found dead from knife wounds in her Elkridge family room Sunday.

Howard County police said little about their investigation yesterday, but friends and relatives recalled a "completely dedicated" 35-year-old mother and "brilliant" statistician who worked at the National Security Agency near Fort Meade.

"She was so wonderful," said Nancy Lewis, Raras' sister. "She was so dedicated to her friends and family."

Raras possessed a number of talents -- from number crunching to writing. Over the years, those traits had taken her from Albuquerque, N.M., where she was raised, to the NSA.

Raras always wanted to be a wife and mother, her sister said. She fulfilled the latter dream in July 1997. This summer, she began ending the former, filing for divorce from her second husband and battling for custody of their 1-year-old son, Lorenzo Williamson Raras.

Police questioned her estranged husband, Lorenzo D. Raras, 33, on Monday and searched his car and his parents' Carney home.

Police said Raras died sometime after Saturday afternoon, when she went shopping with a friend and got a haircut. On Sunday, a friend called to check on Raras, and when she didn't answer the phone, the caller alerted police, said a close friend who requested anonymity.

Police found a front porch window smashed. They would not discuss the scene inside the home.

Raras' husband had custody of their son at the time of her death, police said. The boy is now with his father.

Raras, who was born at Patrick Air Force Base, near the Cape Canaveral space center in Florida, moved six or seven years later to Albuquerque with her family, Lewis said, and graduated from Highland High School in 1980. Four years later, Raras received a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a minor in English from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, where she met her first husband.

Raras began pursuing a master's degree in statistics, then changed her mind and took a job with the military at White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico, Lewis said.

"She got this great job and wanted to see what it was like in the real world," Lewis said.

A short time later, she followed her husband to Maryland, Lewis said, and took a job with the NSA.

She and her husband were divorced three years later. "They just grew apart," Lewis said.

In the late 1980s, Raras again tackled a master's degree, dividing her time between the NSA and the Johns Hopkins University, where she studied statistics. She graduated with a degree in operations research in 1994, the same year she married Lorenzo Raras, whom she had met at Hopkins. She moved with him to Meadowfield Court in Elkridge.

Three years later, she gave birth to their son.

Two weeks ago, Lewis spoke with her sister. Raras sounded upbeat, Lewis said, because her son had successfully undergone ear surgery for an infection.

In other conversations, she complained about the daily struggles over custody, Lewis said, and a husband who wasn't making it easy.

In court documents and divorce papers filed this summer, Raras accused her husband, who works for MCI Communications Corp. in Linthicum, of threatening to kill her and her son. On June 29, Sara Raras filed for a restraining order.

Lorenzo Raras denied those allegations in affidavits. He would not discuss her death yesterday when contacted by a reporter.

Pub Date: 11/18/98

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