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20 years later, still no sign of the killer

The Baltimore Sun

You might be dead. You could be in prison. There's a good chance of either. Or maybe you are reading this at a kitchen table in a house in Glen Burnie, where you live an ordinary life with your spouse and your teenage children. Or maybe you're sitting at a bus stop and these words come as you wait for the No. 8 to take you up Greenmount Avenue and York Road to a job in Towson.

Then again, maybe you are long gone from Baltimore, the scene of your crime, and these words will never reach you.

You could be anybody. You could be anywhere.

You killed Jimmy Reid 20 years ago this week and got away with it, and you know that better than anyone, and I'll bet you are out here among us - neither dead nor imprisoned - because people like you have the unfortunate good fortune of being able to slip through cracks and slither past danger.

You obviously do not have a big mouth; you must not have bragged about the killing in a barroom or prison cell. And, apparently, you have not double-crossed or ticked off anyone who lived to tell about it. No one has snitched, not even for the reward money.

Not yet, anyway.

So, here we are - 20 years after my first column on the horrible death of Jimmy Reid, and 10 years after the follow-up that reported no new leads and quoted Reid's heartbroken sister.

This is cold-case stuff, and probably a waste of time. You haven't confessed to Jimmy Reid's murder after two decades, and I have been unable to imagine the exact combination of nouns, verbs and adjectives that might persuade you to suddenly give yourself up.

I'm guessing there isn't a conscience there, much less a guilty one.

You took a wallet from 45-year-old Jimmy Reid in a street robbery near his home on April 11, 1987, and you killed him for nothing. The wallet either contained a few bucks, or it was empty. Reid had left most of his Friday take-home pay in his room at his parents' house on Desoto Road, in Southwest Baltimore, before walking out for a few beers at a neighborhood bar on Washington Boulevard.

You might have been in the same bar that night. You might have followed Reid on the sidewalk. That might have been your game at the time; maybe you liked to follow the drinkers home at 2 a.m. and rob them. Maybe you were crazy on crack and needed fast cash. The year 1987 was a big one for crack in Baltimore, and there were a lot of desperate users on the streets.

But you got next to nothing, or nothing at all, from Jimmy Reid, and maybe that made you furious and stupid. And maybe he resisted, and maybe he cursed you.

Of course, we don't know. Only you would know.

Whatever happened, you pulled out a knife and attacked Jimmy Reid. The medical examiner found defensive wounds on his knuckles and fingers. You slashed at his throat and Jimmy Reid bled to death on the sidewalk just 40 or 50 steps from home. Someone spotted his body at 2:15 a.m. and called police.

The police had a lead in the case that took them to Florida in 2002, but they have not been able to arrest the killer.

That would be you, of course.

I'm guessing you have lived a violent life. This wasn't an aberration, was it? Jimmy Reid probably wasn't the only fellow human being you attacked, and it's even possible he wasn't the only one you killed. Some will disagree and wish you death, but I believe our best hope is that you were arrested for other crimes, spent a lot time in prison and have become too old, too ill or too weak to hurt anyone again.

Maybe you are middle-aged now, recovered and reformed, trying to be a normal person in the world. You can't imagine disrupting a settled life to come clean over the murder of an unremarkable electrician's helper 20 years ago. Stranger things have happened, but I can't imagine you doing that, either.

You probably think no one cares. There's a tendency, in this violent city in this violent nation, to think that.

But you're wrong. The city's cold-case unit would jump on this in an instant if they had a new lead.

We still hold life precious; we still have courts of law and a high regard for justice and right. And victims have families, and families feel pain. Some families find closure and peace in justice. Some never get there.

If not for a reminder from Doris Czincilla, Jimmy Reid's sister, I would have forgotten about the anniversary of this senseless death, though the memory of Jimmy Reid and the blood-stained sidewalk near his home hits me every time I drive along Washington Boulevard.

"Hopefully," Doris Czincilla wrote in a letter last week, suggesting another column on this unsolved crime, "the last story may bring closure to this broken heart. I was 61, and my late mother was 81 when Jimmy was killed. Now I am 81. Not much time left for me on this earth."

She enclosed a Metro Crime Stoppers handout on her brother's murder, a photograph (and negative) that I had seen before and one that I hadn't. It showed Jimmy Reid, with a modest smile, full head of hair and sideburns. He appears to be sitting on the edge of a sofa, dressed in a heavy plaid shirt, beer bottle and cigarette in one hand, waving off the photographer with the other.

"This is how my brother dressed when he visited the neighborhood bar," Doris Czincilla added. "No need to return the pictures or negatives to me. As I said, time is short."

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