To his clients and friends, Richard Shaw presented himself as a successful photographer and talent agent with ties to Hollywood. He drove a red Lexus and lived in a new $680,000 home.
Shaw's company, Kidz in the Biz, offered a dream of Hollywood fame to aspiring models and actors. On his company's Web site he claimed connections to "directors from 22 countries all over the world" and to Halle Berry's agent.
But the 56-year-old Shaw - who was found slain in his Hanover office Wednesday - was the subject of 22 complaints filed with the state attorney general's office and numerous judgments around the state, and he had filed for bankruptcy. In one civil suit, a judge found that after charging hundreds of dollars, Shaw never delivered head shots for an aspiring model.
Reached in Los Angeles, Berry's agent, Vincent Cirrincione, said he put on a workshop for Shaw's clients 10 years ago but denied having a business relationship with him. He said he had been preparing to pursue legal action to have his name removed from the Web site.
Anne Arundel County police have no suspects in the killing and have not established a motive. They have not found the gun used to kill him.
"This is an interesting case from an investigative perspective," said Anne Arundel County police spokesman Lt. David D. Waltemeyer Jr. "It could go anywhere. We don't know."
Friends contacted yesterday remembered him as successful, generous and kind, and they bristled at the concerns raised about Shaw.
"I can't believe someone would try and smear his name like that," said Linda Rondo, who identified herself as a friend. "He was a decent man, he didn't have a mean bone in his body. Things come out, the poor man can't defend himself. He's gone, why would you do that?"
Shaw's body was found at 9 a.m. by a 20-year-old employee of Kidz in the Biz who was arriving for work. Police said that Shaw had been shot, but they have not said how many times or with what type of weapon.
The office of Kidz in the Biz, located in an office park, was dark yesterday and the door locked. But before Shaw's death, the business was often bustling, said Kathy Ellis, who works at the automotive repair business next door.
And the open call last Tuesday night, the last time Shaw was seen alive, was no exception, she said. By about 5:30 p.m., she said, most of the people had left. He was last seen about 9 p.m., police said.
The Kidz in the Biz Web site says it has placed clients on major TV shows, and it promotes a career in modeling as a quick path to fame and fortune. The site says a modeling career is "the highest paid of its type for the least amount of time and money invested in training."
The major investment, the site says, is in procuring excellent photographs that serve as the talent's calling card.
"A serious model will eagerly want to make this investment once they are certain modeling is something they want to do," according to the Web site of the company, which has also gone by the names Annapolis Talent Agency and Motion Pictures Inc.
The Federal Trade Commission warns against agents who require models to use a certain photographer or who ask for upfront payments from the client. The agency's profits should instead come from fees paid for modeling assignments, the FTC says.
Because of their homicide investigation, county police have sealed the 22 complaints filed in the last three years with the attorney general's office.
According to court records filed with the District Court in Glen Burnie, Shaw angered one Baltimore couple when he charged them $1,434 for photographs of their daughter but never produced the pictures.
"After two photo shoots, numerous phone calls, visits to Mr. Shaw's office, letters sent, emails, [to the] Better Business Bureau, Attorney General Office, Mr. Shaw has never produced the products agreed," wrote Frederick and Beverly Rich in a civil complaint filed in February 2004. The court ordered Shaw to repay the couple.
The most recent records on file with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation for any of Shaw's businesses were in 2003, for Motion Pictures Inc. The company name was forfeited when it failed to provide a personal property tax return with the state for the previous year.
But an attorney with the department said that while the lack of records "raised questions," it did not necessarily mean it was operating illegally or not paying taxes.
Court records also point to financial difficulties. Naming his five companies, Shaw filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in 2003, according to computerized records from U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides for full or partial repayment of debts.
He named 55 creditors with unsecured claims totaling $126,365. Claims include more than $19,000 in American Express credit card purchases, more than $1,000 to a dental practice and $560 for community college tuition, according to a listing of creditors.
Other court records show numerous judgments against him or his companies, including one in 2000 for about $25,600 by Bell Atlantic Directory Services. But most are small amounts, such as $251 from a printing company in 1998, $442 sought by a Waldorf man in 1997, and $738 sought by an Annapolis woman in 1997.
Despite those difficulties, Shaw had recently purchased a $680,000 home in the Ride Commons development in Hanover. The home was purchased purely on loans with no money down, said Jim Leonard, senior loan officer with Fidelity First, who secured his loan.
The two-story house with a full basement is on a quiet cul-de-sac with fewer than a dozen new homes.
One neighbor, who said he just moved in 10 days ago with his family, said Shaw was the first to greet them and welcome them. "He was very warm, very sincere," said Eihab El.
Friends and employees reached yesterday shared similar sentiments. They remembered him lending them money and constantly serving as a voice of encouragement in a rough industry.
Dawn Brauckhoff, who worked for Shaw, said, he and his wife, Bethany, were "second parents" to her (the couple filed for divorce, but it's not clear if it was finalized). The couple helped her gain self-confidence by giving her a job as a secretary in the business and teaching her how to interact with clients.
"They believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself," she said. "They'd encourage me."
Sun reporter Andrea F. Siegel and editorial assistant Arlene Baker contributed to this article.