The details surrounding the deaths of Lillian Abramowicz Phelps and Sheila Ann Turner were strikingly similar - both were in their early 40s and disappeared late last month, and their bodies were found near train tracks in southeastern Harford County.
Yesterday, police said they believe the two shared another similarity: They were prostitutes. A spokesman for the Harford County sheriff's office said the agency and Maryland State Police are jointly investigating whether the killings are connected.
"There are similarities, and we are working with the Maryland State Police based on those similarities," said spokesman Robert B. Thomas.
The bodies were found about six miles apart, both near railroad tracks in the southern part of the county. The body of Turner, 42, was discovered June 2 in a grassy field in Perryman by two Amtrak employees. She had been reported missing May 26.
Two weeks later, a body found by state troopers on Oakington Road near U.S. 40 in Havre de Grace was identified through dental records as that of Phelps, 43, of Elkton. She was last seen May 30.
Phelps' mother, Jadwiga Abramowicz, said her daughter, who was known as Lilly, was hanging out with friends in Aberdeen that night. She wanted to leave early and tried to find a ride home to Cecil County.
Abramowicz dismissed the notion that her daughter was a prostitute.
"It's not true. She was 43 years old - she wanted to settle down," said Abramowicz, 76. "She is very friendly, but she is not the type."
Abramowicz said her daughter was unemployed and suffered from bipolar disorder.
Thomas declined to explain why police concluded that the women were prostitutes, saying only that it was learned through the investigation of their deaths. A state police spokesman said no links between the deaths had been established.
Neither Phelps nor Turner had been charged with prostitution, according to court records, though each had lengthy records that included driving infractions, assault and theft. Phelps' record contained multiple drug charges, though most were not pursued by prosecutors.