Despite pleas for a peaceful surrender, the four-day manhunt for ex-Baltimore County Police Officer Robert Vicosa and his two kidnapped daughters ended in tragedy Thursday, with both girls dead.
Police found Giana and Aaminah Vicosa, ages 7 and 6, respectively, their father and his alleged criminal accomplice in a minor car crash Thursday afternoon after a brief chase into Western Maryland, state police said.
When police approached the car, they discovered all four people inside had been shot, Maryland State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo said at an evening news conference. Three of them died at the scene and one, a child, was flown to a hospital in Hagerstown where the she died, Russo said.
The four were found after their car drifted off the road and crashed in a shallow ditch outside the small town of Ringgold. Robert Vicosa and current Baltimore County Police Officer Tia Bynum, his alleged accomplice, had taken off in the stolen car as authorities closed in.
State Police troopers found Bynum’s body in the front seat and Vicosa’s body in the back with his daughters. In a news release, State Police called the deaths a murder-suicide. Vicosa was known to be armed, and troopers found an assault rifle and guns in the car, police said.
It all brought a grim conclusion to a manhunt that stretched from Cockeysville to York County, Pennsylvania and sent police after them from two states and federal agencies. The pair had been on the run after allegedly kidnapping Vicosa’s daughters from his estranged wife in York County over the weekend, then robbing and carjacking the people they encountered while trying to stay ahead of authorities, police said.
Vicosa, 41, was wanted in Pennsylvania on a felony warrant for armed carjacking. Bynum, 36, was wanted on a charge of false imprisonment. Thursday morning, police chiefs from Maryland and Pennsylvania urged them to drop off the girls at a safe location before anyone else was hurt.
“They do not need to be involved in this. We want to ensure the two girls, your girls, are safe,” York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon said at a news conference in Pennsylvania.
“Please, get these two innocent and precious children to a safe location,” added Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt at the news conference. “We know that you are tired. We want to work with you on a safe and peaceful resolution.”
Police had considered Vicosa and Bynum armed and dangerous. They allegedly held Vicosa’s estranged wife captive over the weekend, tying her up and forcing her to snort a crushed painkiller pill, smoke pot, and handle guns, according to court records.
Vicosa threatened to kill his estranged wife, their children and himself, according to the records.
Wednesday afternoon, Vicosa and Bynum carjacked a man in Cockeysville and ordered him to drive them around before releasing him unharmed, police said. As the manhunt continued Thursday, about a dozen schools in northern Baltimore County were temporarily locked down; no one could enter or exit without the principal’s permission.
Vicosa served as a sergeant in the Catonsville precinct as recent as 2019, but a series of administrative charges resulted in his demotion and firing three months ago, according to police records. Bynum worked in the department’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, a specialized unit that investigates the most serious crimes. Officials described the two as being in a relationship.
Their alleged crime spree began Friday night when Vicosa lured his estranged wife to his home in Red Lion, Pennsylvania to celebrate her birthday. She told police they had cake and put the girls to bed, but Vicosa stopped her as she tried to leave. Bynum was there, too, she said.
“The next thing she knew, Tia and Robert grabbed her by the arms, and Robert put a handgun to her head,” she told police in the court records.
They led her to the basement and tied her wrists and ankles with zip ties and black rope, according to the charging documents. Over the next 24 hours, Vicosa allegedly drugged her, threatened her and sexually assaulted her, according to court records.
Bynum left the house the next day. On that day, Saturday, Vicosa’s estranged wife had to call her brother and Vicosa warned her to pretend everything was fine.
“He said that if the cops are called that everyone will be dead,” according to the court records. “He said that he would kill her, the girls, and himself.”
On Sunday, she persuaded Vicosa to let her go home to collect some clothes and her computer. She worried he was following her, so she went to Target afterward and sought help from a store employee. Police got a search warrant for Vicosa’s home and arrived Monday to find the house in disarray, with a window shattered in the back. Vicosa and the girls were gone.
Officers headed to Bynum’s house about four miles away in York County.
“Tia answered the door armed with a pistol on her side in a holster,” officers wrote in the court records. “She allowed officers to look through the home for Robert and the children, but they were not located.”
She told police she was at Vicosa’s home with his estranged wife and the girls over the weekend, but she denied going into the basement and told police Vicosa and his estranged wife went into the bedroom and she left them alone, according to charging documents. That launched the manhunt for Vicosa and the girls. Police believed he was driving Bynum’s black Acura.
The next day, they found the car crashed into shallow waters beside a home in York County. The homeowner had a vacation camper parked outside her house, and she just stepped out for an afternoon walk when she noticed the submerged car.
“When she sees the car, she hears a voice,” said Lt. Ken Schollenberger, of the York police. “She looks to her right. Coming out of the camper is a black male with a towel around his waist and he puts a gun in her face. He tells her he needs a car. He needs her to find rope to tie her up with.”
The woman handed over keys to her Volkswagen Jetta, her cellphone and blankets to Vicosa and the girls, the court records stated. Police believe they spent the night in the camper. When they drove off, the woman called police.
Breaking News Alerts
Officers traced her phone and found the car ditched. They called in a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter to search the area of Lancaster Street in Red Lion, but again Vicosa and the girls were gone. According to the court records, police found pill bottles in the car with Vicosa’s name on the labels.
They checked the woman’s phone and found he was calling Bynum, so officers returned to her house Tuesday night — only to find her gone, police said. The two carjacked the man in Cockeysville Wednesday, police said. They remained on the run with the girls for one more day.
Internal affairs files show Vicosa, who was formerly “Robert Brown” and changed his name in 2015, had been found guilty of administrative charges for being sexually inappropriate with women subordinates, watching inappropriate videos in their presence, making sexual remarks and leering. Last year, a police trial board demoted him two ranks from sergeant to officer and stripped him of 45 days of leave.
Additional administrative charges were brought against him this year for insubordination, sleeping on the job, and refusing to be trained and to perform his duties. A police trial board stripped him of 20 days of leave and, in August, he was fired.
Baltimore Sun reporters Christine Condon, Taylor DeVille and Liz Bowie contributed to this article.