Peter Makris, owner of Pepe's Pizza and Pepe's Drive In, probably started his day yesterday as he had most days for the last 20 years: coming to work at 2 a.m. to prepare pizzas for customers and egg sandwiches for the police officers who would stop by to chat.
But when an employee showed up around 6 a.m. to open shop, he discovered the body of his 72-year-old boss lying just inside the front door.
Baltimore County police are investigating the death of Makris, a resident of the 3100 block of Woodring Ave. in Baltimore, as a homicide, saying he suffered trauma to his upper body. Police said a medical examiner's report should be completed by today.
Officials would not say whether anything was taken from Pepe's Drive In, where the body was found, or the pizza restaurant next door, both in the 6000 block of Falls Road, near Lake Avenue.
Makris' employees said the businesses looked the way they had when the workers left the night before at midnight. Makris never got a chance to begin his daily routine, they said.
Yesterday, detectives spent the afternoon at the drive-in, flying a helicopter overhead and towing Makris' car from in front of the restaurant.
The homicide in the Lake Falls area shocked residents, who said that there is relatively little crime in the business district, which is dominated by cafes, beauty salons and small clothing shops.
Makris, an immigrant from Greece, treated his business as a family enterprise, and his wife, son and daughter all worked with him. But it was Makris who was the first to arrive seven days a week, between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., to begin working.
"He worked harder than anybody else," said Mike Norris, 48, an employee for eight years. "He never asked anybody to do anything he wouldn't do."
Family members, including Makris' son, cousin and brother, gathered in the restaurant yesterday as police investigated. Relatives and friends cried as the body was removed and placed in a medical examiner's van.
All day, residents, employees and customers stopped by the restaurant to talk about the man they knew as "Mr. Pete" and mourn with his son, Andy.
"When he was sick, he came in," said Roy Husain, 53, who worked at the restaurant for three years. "He would leave by 2 [in the afternoon] or so."
Some officers on the scene knew Makris as the owner who always had egg sandwiches for them.
"He had a lot of friends on the force," said Pfc. Paul Hoke, who patrols the community and was the first officer to arrive at the crime scene. "I'd sit down and we would talk about anything - sports, the Orioles, mostly about the business. ... This is a tough one."
Co-workers said they had never hade problems with crime before, noting that convenience stores bore the brunt of robberies in the area.
After the restaurant closed at midnight, "I would be here until 2 in the morning with my mom and nothing ever happened," said Christy Almony, 15, of Parkville, whose mother, Jeannie, is a cook there.
Across the street at Lake Falls Village shopping center, residents sat around cafe tables and watched police work.
The managers of some businesses, such as Lawrence Davis, anassistant manager at the Royal Farms store, said they were considering adding more security in light of Makris' death.
"I am going to start watching everyone that walks in here," Davis said.
Makris' death was Baltimore County's 13th homicide this year.