Baltimore Police caught a murder in progress in Northwest Baltimore, when they observed Elias Josael Jimenes Avarado strangling a female victim. Avarado is from El Salvador. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
A man from El Salvador who is in the country illegally has been charged with killing a woman in Northwest Baltimore and is considered a suspect in another woman's killing last week, police said Friday.
Police said officers responding to a call of a woman screaming early Thursday cut their headlights and crept behind a home in the 3900 block of Dolfield Ave. There, the officers saw a man over the body of Ranarda Williams, 35. He fled into a nearby garage but was caught and taken into custody.
Williams was taken to a hospital, where she died. She had been strangled, police said.
Col. Stanley Brandford said the suspect gave multiple names, but after consulting with federal immigration officials, police determined that he was 21-year-old Elias Josael Jimenes Avardo. Police said he was in the country illegally, but they have little other information about his background. On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a detainer on Avardo.
Police said Avardo is a suspect in the killing a week earlier of Annquinnette Dates, 48. Dates was found strangled in the rear of a home in the 3700 block of Bancroft Road on the morning of Sept. 2, police say.
Both women were believed to be sex workers, police said.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis praised the patrol officers who caught Avardo. Davis said they were veterans of nine and 24 years, respectively, assigned to the midnight shift. Davis said it was rare to come upon such a crime in progress.
"These patrol officers took their jobs very seriously and put themselves in a position to make this apprehension," Davis said. "If they didn't make this apprehension, we'd have a murder victim, a whodunit, an unsolved case."
Brandford said police have been reaching out to sex workers in Northwest Baltimore, and some said they had seen Avardo in the area.
"We always tell [sex workers] to be careful — be careful who you walk off with, be careful who you get into a vehicle with," Brandford said. "We know that's how they make a living sometimes — it's not advisable, but we always want them to be careful."
Police said Avardo frequented the area around the Home Depot on Reisterstown Road.
"Right now we don't know how long he's been in the Baltimore area," Brandford said. "The only thing we know about him is he hung around that particular area."
Williams' sister, Shanell Polnitz, described her as "strong and loving and caring."
"She was just a good friend," said Polnitz, who lives in Alabama. "She could talk to anybody pretty much."
Polnitz said she does not think her sister was a sex worker, as police believe.
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