Editor's note: Over the next few days, the Today section will follow up on some of the people and issues that made news in the Baltimore area in 1998.
"We took up the rug."
"It should be dry now."
Ted Pond and Doris Greene, talking in the hallway at 6513 Golden Ring Road. It's been two weeks since their father's sister, Bernice Ohler, died from repeated stab wounds in the hallway on Thanksgiving.
The 82-year-old woman died five feet from an alarm-system panel. She was found on the rug. Her husband, 81-year-old Joseph Ohler, was also fatally stabbed. He was found in his flower bed.
"He'll be home tomorrow, you think. He's just ... away."
Clarence Pond, talking in the kitchen of the Ohlers' brick home in Rosedale. His sister's blood had soaked the rug, now dry in the basement. Police gave Clarence the name of a cleaning company, but the family took care of it. He points at the hallway floor, looks at his daughter and son.
"That girl there and that boy there -- that's where they had to get down on their hands and knees and clean up the blood."
Funeral bouquets are staked in the front yard. Otherwise, the house seems to await the Ohlers' return. Chicken sits in the refrigerator, where a note confirms Joseph Ohler's eye appointment for 3-11-99. A full roll of peppermint Lifesavers is untouched in a bowl. Clarence hands the family's tax consultant, Suzanne McHenry, a shoe box full of bills and letters. Martha Stewart's festive mug grins from the new Newsweek.
The phone rings three times. Joseph Ohler's voice answers. So clear. "We're not home now. Leave us a message ... Thank you, and have a nice day."
"Where'd you put that light switch, Joe?"
Clarence again, talking in his brother-in-law's dark basement. Ohler, an electrician, saved and tagged everything. "Found Walking Home from Bank" reads the tag on an old T-square. In the immaculate bedrooms, dressers brim. Aunt Bernie always wore dresses, says Doris. Never saw her in slacks even when we were kids, her brother says. They spot Bernice's Thanksgiving corsage. The flowers look alive.
"I idolized Aunt Bernie when I was growing up. She always made you feel special. She was the cat's meow."
"Two people you were always glad to see. Stop what you're doing for them."
Doris and Ted, still talking. In the living room, two TV remotes look bored. A wooden trinket says: "Old Age is for Sissies." A picture of Bernice and Joe at Gatorland in Orlando is discovered. Bernice is barely holding the scaly tale of a baby gator. She wanted no part of that, Doris says. Look what I found in her bathroom, she says.
"Doing (Too Much?) for Others" begins the magazine article, face-up on the corner of the tub. Bernice, her family believes, had planned to read the story, but then the holiday visitors came back. Two people who had begged for and received money from Joseph Ohler.
The two, Lawrence Michael Borchardt Sr., 46, and Jeanne Sue Cascio, 39, were charged with their murders. There had been no break-in. Just blood on the rug.
"He died because he was too generous."
Clarence Pond, talking and moving from room to room, opening sticky drawers and closets ("Ever seen so many hats?), and sizing up his job for the coming months. He's looking for a way to feel charitable again.
"What should I do with their clothes? Give them to the poor? I don't want to see some bum walking down the street in my brother-in-law's coat. What do I do?" For three hours this past June, Wesley Hoffman brought Baltimore-Washington International Airport to a standstill. Just by parking his car.
It was apparently an unwitting act by a novice deliveryman. But because of the continuing state of heightened alert at airports, it was another awful episode in what might be called the new era of unnecessary inconvenience in airport travel, where lapses of manners by airport patrons are increasingly likely to create havoc.
Hoffman apparently meant no harm when he parked his gold Ford Crown Victoria outside the United Airlines terminal and went inside to drop off packages of computer parts at three airline counters -- despite constant announcements warning against leaving cars or packages unattended for even a moment.
But while he was away, a dog with a police K-9 unit alerted officers to the smell of explosives in the trunk of his unattended car. (The dogs' sniffers were off: a search of the trunk produced oil cans, trash and old debris.)
For the two hours while police searched for Hoffman and examined his packages, major roads to the airport were closed, two piers were evacuated, and 19 planes were delayed. Thousands of people were inconvenienced.
You'd think anyone going anywhere near an airport would know better. Airport security has been on the increase for years, and since the Oklahoma City bombing, police have vigorously ticketed and towed unattended cars.
Now the Federal Aviation Administration wants to force all foreign carriers arriving in the United States to follow security procedures identical to those required in U.S. airports. If that happens, the new year could see the most dramatic security increase yet for air travel since the 1988 Pan Am 103 explosion.
In Maryland, authorities want to increase fines for behavior like Hoffman's, which for all its innocence must be taken seriously by police and which causes unnecessary delays. Possibly it would lead to a heightened consideration for one's fellow traveler, something not all of us possess.
Just last month, the biggest delay at BWI came from a man late for his flight who set off a security check alarm but refused to heed requests that he go through the checkpoint again.
To find the runaway passenger, officials were forced to close off Pier C, stop all boarding of flights, and force passengers already buckled in their seats on three flights to get off and go though security again.
When a suspected culprit couldn't be positively identified, no one was charged.
Neither Leslie Hoffman nor his employer, Capital Delivery Services of Harrisburg, Pa., wanted to discuss the events of that June day at BWI.
For his part in shutting the airport down, Hoffman was fined $50 -- for leaving a vehicle unattended.
But Hoffman may be more considerate than his actions at the airport might indicate, judging from the message on his home answering machine: "May your tomorrow be better than today."
Patricia Meisol Pub Date: 12/29/98