The intense search for two brothers who police said were abducted earlier this week as part of a home invasion ended yesterday, when a relative brought the teens to Baltimore County police headquarters in Towson.
The teenagers were quickly ushered into interviews with detectives seeking answers to the most basic questions surrounding the case:
Who were the six masked men who burst into a home on a quiet suburban block? What happened during the eight-hour siege? And where were the teenagers the last few days, as authorities at all levels of government frantically searched for them?
"Everything has been full bore to find these two kids," said Cpl. Michael Hill, a county police spokesman. "Now we go full bore with the rest of the investigation."
The disappearance of Stephon Blackwell, 16, and his 15-year-old brother, Sterling Blackwell, appears to have been related to Baltimore's heroin trade. Hill could not say whether the teens had been injured, whether there had been any ransom requested or paid, how the teens had become free, or where they have been since they went missing on Tuesday.
When asked about the legal status of the teens, Hill said: "Right now they are victims of a kidnapping, unless other information transpires out of that interview, then we'll deal with that at that time. To say anything about that would just be improper at this point."
He also said: "We're hoping that we do get some cooperation from them and we do learn exactly what's happened and where they have been and, frankly, what they've been doing."
Police have been searching for the teenagers since they were taken from the house Tuesday morning.
Six gunmen had forced their way into the Catonsville home about 3 a.m. that morning, police had said, and had bound and gagged the 10 occupants in the house.
"I don't want to say that this is a targeted event, but we do believe the suspects and the victims have some relationship," Hill said yesterday.
Police said for the first time yesterday that they are investigating a possible sexual assault on a woman during the home invasion.
The abducted boys' older brother, Steven "JR" Blackwell Jr., has been convicted of drug distribution. Their father, Steven Blackwell Sr., 48, is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for heroin offenses, records show.
The teens' older brother brought them to the county police station yesterday afternoon, according to a source familiar with the investigation who is not authorized to discuss an active case.
Tuesday's eight-hour home invasion ended when the older brother drove up to the house, in the 600 block of Plymouth Road, the source has said. At that point, some of the abductors drove off in a BMW convertible that was at the home with the two brothers, firing at least one shot.
The BMW was later found in East Baltimore.
The fate of the two teens was the subject of intense interest within law enforcement. News that a dead teenager had been found Thursday in South Baltimore drew TV trucks and newspaper reporters to the scene. Two public information officers for the police arrived - only to inform reporters that the body was not one of the two then-missing boys. The body has not yet been identified.
The two Blackwell teens spent time growing up in East Baltimore, and both have criminal histories that put them under the current supervision of the state Department of Juvenile Services, city juvenile documents reviewed by The Sun show.
It appears that Baltimore defense attorney Warren A. Brown played at least some role in the return of the teens.
Brown said that a man he believes to be close to the teens' family contacted him on Thursday afternoon to help broker a safe return of the brothers.
"It was somebody with some credibility," Brown said. "It wasn't just a call out of the blue."
He would not say who contacted him. Brown said that he did not talk to the teens and that he did not help negotiate a ransom.
He said he had several conversations with the individual. At one point he said there was a plan to have the boys brought to his office. The plan was changed to have the two teens brought to his downtown office around 9 a.m. yesterday.
Plainclothes officers stood outside Brown's office yesterday afternoon, occasionally talking on cell phones and radios, but they left around 1:30 p.m.
Brown said that he believed that his contact was having a conversation with the boys' family. Brown said he has never represented anyone in the family.
As detectives began to interview the teenagers, Hill, the police spokesman, said many questions were left to be answered.
"I am not able to go into anything about the investigation at this point, frankly, because we just don't know," he said.
3 a.m. Tuesday: Six armed men wearing masks get out of a gray Chevrolet Suburban and force their way into a two-story house in the 600 block of Plymouth Road in Catonsville. The 10 occupants of the house - two women and eight men - are bound and gagged.
11 a.m. Tuesday: The intruders leave the house, some in a BMW convertible, taking brothers Stephon Blackwell, 16, and Sterling Blackwell, 15, whose mother rents the house. As the intruders go, a relative arrives and the intruders fire at least one shot.
Tuesday afternoon: Baltimore County police begin an investigation. They ask state police to issue an Amber Alert for the Blackwell brothers. Police say they were getting limited cooperation from the people left in the house.
8:30 p.m. Tuesday: The BMW is found abandoned in the 200 block of N. Glover St. in East Baltimore.
Friday afternoon: The two brothers are dropped off at Baltimore County police headquarters by a relative. Police say the teens are considered victims and are being questioned by detectives. Police say they are now concentrating the investigation on finding the intruders. The Amber Alert is canceled.