In the lobby of Weinberg Place, an 11-story senior apartment building overlooking Pimlico Race Track, one person stood out Thursday among those milling about: a Baltimore homicide detective.
Detective Martin Young was meeting with management after the medical examiner ruled this week 86-year-old Ernest "Pete" Curtis was killed by asphyxiation. According to police, a relative hadn't heard from Curtis and on July 30 asked maintenance workers to open his locked door. He was found unresponsive in his bed, police said.
Curtis, a retired state employee, is the oldest homicide victim in the city this year, and police say they aren't sure of a motive.
"We're in the process of trying to speak with everybody, and there are over 200 residents that live here," Young said from a top floor conference room with sweeping views of North Baltimore. "We want to see if they saw anything unusual, and calm their fears if they have any."
The apartment building is situated in a complex that includes the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and is across from Sinai Hospital. The apartment complex's web page promises an "active, worry-free lifestyle"; an elevator had fliers with a schedule of events including a bowling trip, a visit from a produce truck, choir practice, and a group viewing of the Ravens game.
Shuttles buses constantly circulate the property, and on Thursday residents were sitting outside enjoying the weather. But they were also disturbed by word spreading — gradually — that a fellow resident had been killed.
"What happened to him is pretty bad," said an 82-year-old resident who has lived at the building for 20 years. She was sitting outside with her daughter and did not want to give her name out of safety concerns. "If it happened to him, it could happen to anyone."
The building's management said the building is secure, but did not want to detail security measures.
Breaking News Alerts
"We have a good building that's never had problems before. We take a lot of steps to care for our residents," said George Caruso, executive vice president for Edgewood Management, which runs the building.
"The whole matter is very tragic, but beyond that, we're simply going to let police proceed along. If any changes are necessary in our procedures, we'll make them."
Roy Kiewe, who works with Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.'s Weinberg Housing Development and Management, which also oversees the building, said few details have been disclosed by police.
"We're of course concerned," he said. "Certainly, people die in their apartment, but never had it been called a murder."
Relatives of Curtis could not be reached Thursday, but they remembered him in an online obituary for his "pleasant personality" and said he enjoyed "all types of people."
Curtis enjoyed horse racing and training beginning his teens, the obituary said, and he at one point worked at Pimlico and traveled to horse races in Delaware at the Delaware Park Racetrack. He spent two years in the Army, they wrote, and worked for the Maryland Department of Human Resources for 20 years until his retirement.
Anyone with information was asked to call 410-396-2100.