Carlos Santay was smiling while paying a gas station attendant as he prepared to return home to drive his wife to the hospital to give birth to their first child.
"He looked happy," said Munir Haider, the clerk at the Catonsville gas station where the 19-year-old Santay was fatally stabbed Saturday evening in what police said appeared to be a botched robbery.
Santay's wife and newborn son remained at Howard County General Hospital yesterday, while police and friends of the young widow pleaded for public help in identifying the killer.
"The guy is still out there," said Bertha Anderson, a family friend, during a news conference at Baltimore County police headquarters. "There's another person that this could happen to."
Police said Santay was stabbed at the Carroll Fuel station in the 5200 block of Baltimore National Pike, near the city-county line. He was paying for the gas at the station's booth when a man lunged at him, Haider said yesterday.
The station attendant said he never saw the assailant's face because his view was blocked by the booth's metal door.
As the young man struggled to free himself from his attacker's grip, he was stabbed, police said.
Haider, 58, said he watched in horror from the booth, as Santay clasped his chest and slumped to the ground and the killer ran across U.S. 40.
He called 911 while the other three customers at the station, all women, screamed.
"He was a boy, so young," Haider said. "I feel so sorry for his family."
Santay's wife, Claudia Sales, 23, was in the early stages of labor, waiting for his return to the house they rented about a block from the gas station. A relative took her to the hospital. Sales was told that her husband had been injured, but not that he had been killed.
Friends waited until after Sales had delivered her healthy, 6-pound, 4-ounce son early Sunday to break the news about her husband, who was pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
"Carlos was everything to her," Anderson, a family friend, said.
The couple married in their native Guatemala and moved to the Baltimore area about a year ago. She works in housekeeping at a La Quinta Inn in Jessup, and he was a groundskeeper at a nearby hotel.
In the final stages of her pregnancy, Santay helped his wife with her work, Anderson said.
Mother's Day in some countries, including Guatemala and Mexico, is celebrated on May 10. When Sales went into labor that afternoon, her friends were excited for her, Anderson said. Many of them didn't hear about the death until they arrived at the hospital to congratulate Sales, Anderson said.
Haider, who has worked at the gas station for more than two years, said he has never heard of anyone being robbed there. Police said violent crime is not common in the area.
The would-be robber showed "no regard for life," said Cpl. Mike Hill, a police spokesman.
Hill said police haven't been able to develop a sketch based on the witnesses' descriptions of the suspect as a man in his mid-20s, 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 140 to 160 pounds, with short black hair and wearing blue jeans and black sneakers.
Metro Crime Stoppers offers a reward of up to $2,000 for information about the killing. Those with information can call police at 410-307-2020 or 866-7LOCKUP.
Friends have set up a trust fund for Sales and her son at a local bank branch. Colleagues at La Quinta are collecting monetary donations and gift certificates for Sales and her baby, who will stay with a friend when they are released from the hospital.
Sun reporter Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.