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Neighbor calls, finds pair dead

The Baltimore Sun

A woman checking on a friend in an Annapolis apartment yesterday found a man and a woman lying in pools of blood, an apparent double-murder in a city that last year racked up a record number of homicides.

Annapolis police disclosed few details in the deaths of Cecelia Brown, 51, and Charles Cully, 29, whose bodies were discovered the same week that dozens of residents at a local government meeting demanded more police patrols and held up signs reading "We live in fear."

Nearly all of last year's eight homicides were clustered in private, low-income or public housing communities, and the latest killings continued that pattern. One building in the Bay Ridge Apartments, where a crowd gathered outside yesterday, is inscribed in red ink with "R.I.P. Cole and Dre," a grim reminder of the shooting deaths of two men in the community last year.

"It's not a good day," said Mayor Ellen O. Moyer. "When we got to thinking that disputes get settled with guns, I don't know."

Crime has been a major issue in Annapolis in recent months, with debates erupting over police patrols and staffing, as well as a feud between City Hall and Annapolis' public housing authority. The topic dominated the recent campaign for city council, and downtown community associations have submitted a petition demanding monthly reports on police recruiting.

"When I moved here in 1997, Annapolis seemed like a pretty safe town. You could wander around and feel safe. But over time, it's just getting worse and worse and getting closer and closer," said Cindy Cole, a 44-year-old artist from Eastport. She attended a recent council meeting where residents demanded that aldermen address what community members see as a surge in crime.

Ward 6 Alderwoman Julie Stankivic, who represents the district where yesterday's violence occurred, said the community has been vigilant about curbing crime, meeting as recently as three months ago to talk about how the complex's private security firm can work more closely with the police. Police are planning in coming months to train apartment officers to beef up security, Stankivic said.

The community is also surrounded by a fence and has surveillance cameras that monitor the only way into and out of the buildings.

Police said yesterday that a woman went to visit Brown at her apartment on Bens Drive and saw that her door was open. When she walked inside, she saw two people lying on the floor with blood around them. She left the apartment and called 911. Officers would not discuss how the victims knew each other or how they were killed.

People at the scene reported that Cully's mother had said her son, who lived in the first block of Marcs Court, had gone to the apartment to play cards. Police said there weren't any reports of shots fired or any disturbance.

The city eclipsed its previous yearly record for homicides - eight - Oct. 31, when a 17-year-old boy gunned down an 18-year-old man. The shooting occurred in front of trick-or-treaters in a public housing community just off West Street, which is lined with posh restaurants, shops and hotels.

At a news conference in November, a group of black community leaders called for increased mentoring programs and interaction between families and churches, more jobs and money to start a drug-treatment program, which would be the first in the area.

"There are children and families that need mentors, and they can't get that on the street," former Alderwoman Cynthia E. Carter said yesterday as she surveyed the scene on Bens Drive. "This is what happens when they seek that help on the streets."

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