Balto. Co. woman murdered despite police safety watch

Balto. Co. woman murdered despite police safety watch
Jeffrey Shiflett is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Katie Hadel. (Photo provided by Baltimore County Police Department)

The woman stabbed to death in her Garrison apartment this week was under police watch and had sought a court order for protection against her alleged killer, a former boyfriend who had been threatening her for years, Baltimore County police said Thursday.

Katie Hadel, 33, was three months pregnant when she died Tuesday night, her mother said. She was in the apartment with at least two children when police say Jeffrey Matthew Shiflett — a man who had made many violent threats to harm Hadel — arrived at her door.


At the time, police believed Hadel was miles away at her mother's house, which patrol officers were checking several times a day. They had told her not to stay at her apartment, where Shiflett knew she lived, police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.

Baltimore County records show requests for at least three court orders seeking protection from Shiflett. "He makes threats that he is going to get a gun and if my daughter doesn't go with him, he is going to kill her, her [boyfriend] and himself," according to a 2008 petition by Hadel's mother.

Shiflett was unarmed when arrested Wednesday morning as officers spotted him walking along a road in Reisterstown, less than a half-mile from Hadel's mother's home. He has been charged with first-degree murder. The two had a brief relationship several years ago, according to court records, but they had broken it off and Hadel had gotten married.

Police and prosecutors say they had gone to great lengths to keep Shiflett away from Hadel. State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger's office successfully advocated two years ago against his parole for a 2007 robbery he committed with Hadel, citing a "letter writing campaign" he had conducted from prison, threatening her and a county prosecutor.

Shellenberger's Circuit Court deputy Garret Glennon asked the parole board to keep Shiflett behind bars "for as long as it legally can." Hadel had testified against him in the robbery case, and he had already violated parole once by threatening her, according to court records.

But by December, the Maryland Parole Commission had no other option; he was entitled to mandatory release because he had earned prison credit for good behavior. Soon after, Shellenberger said, Shiflett violated the conditions of that release by making hostile phone calls to Hadel and failing to check in with his parole officer.

Patrol officers had been actively searching for Shiflett, who has no fixed address, but were "unable to locate him," Armacost said. They had offered to assist Hadel in finding a new apartment, one Shiflett didn't know about, but she had declined. Police in Anne Arundel County, where Shiflett's father lives, were also searching for him.

Shiflett's attorney in the robbery case did not return a call for comment; no attorney was listed in online court records related to the murder charge.

Robin Hadel, the victim's mother, said her daughter's killing was the climax of a nightmare that went on for years. "When he was in jail, he did nothing but send her letters and send me letters and threaten her from jail and threaten me from jail," she said this week.

She also said police had "failed" her daughter because they had not found Shiflett earlier, and because "the only thing they could tell us was to move."

Police said they are still trying to piece together exactly what happened, but they had been actively working to keep Katie Hadel safe and had considered Shiflett a serious threat ever since he was released from prison in December.

"The extent that we can protect someone depends heavily on their cooperation," Armacost said in an email response to questions.

Katie Hadel, a 1998 graduate of Franklin High School who married Craig Gordon four years ago, was a stay-at-home mother to their 3-year-old daughter, Ava Gordon, according to Robin Hadel. She said Katie also helped watch other children, including her husband's 12-year-old daughter.

When Katie was younger, her mother said, she was an aspiring model and was flown by scouts to New York and California to have head shots taken. She was interested in fashion but decided against pursuing a career in the industry, her mother said.


In recent years, she had run-ins with law enforcement and was charged with assault and marijuana possession, but was not convicted, court records show. In the 2007 robbery case, Hadel received probation, a condition being that she attend Mountain Manor, a substance abuse treatment facility.

But she'd turned all her attention to her daughter in recent years, and would dress the girl in clothes similar to her own, her mother said. And while Shiflett was behind bars, she had been very happy.

"She devoted all her time to Ava," Robin Hadel said.

Police responded to Hadel's apartment in the first block of Wellhaven Circle about 10:09 p.m. after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor reporting a possible domestic dispute. When they arrived, no one came to the door, but they heard movement inside. Officers called for a special tactical unit, which forced its way inside.

Hadel was found dead. Police said two children, a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old, were also in the apartment, which Gordon and Hadel shared. Robin Hadel said the children were Ava Gordon, who has been "traumatized," and a boy her daughter was baby-sitting.

Robin Hadel said another girl was at the apartment as well, and Shiflett grabbed her when he entered the apartment.

"Katie heard the scuffle and screamed and he let [the girl] go and grabbed Katie," she said. Police would not comment on the presence of a third child, and said a weapon has not been recovered.

Craig Gordon, Katie Hadel's husband, declined to comment Thursday. Robin Hadel said he was traveling for work and was on the West Coast on Tuesday night, when the killing occurred.

She said the family had been upset by police initially describing the killing as being a domestic incident, because her daughter and Shiflett were not in a relationship — and hadn't been for years. Police knew of Shiflett's obsession with and unrequited love for her daughter, she said.

"It just really bothered me because Katie's happily married, and this is a kid who has kind of stalked her since she was in seventh grade, and just was obsessed with her," Robin Hadel said.

Shiflett is being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Mark Vernarelli, a state corrections spokesman, said the state had done its best to monitor Shiflett after his Dec. 21 release — which the state had no legal choice but to grant. Prisoners' sentences are automatically reduced based on behavior goals in prison — getting a job or attending drug counseling, for instance — which Shiflett had met.

"We are bound by that," said Mark Vernarelli, a state corrections spokesman. "When an inmate has served all of his sentence minus the credits, we have to let them out."

Hadel's killing follows other recent domestic violence deaths in the state, and could be used as new evidence to support legislation proposed in the Maryland General Assembly, according to Tracy Brown, executive director of the Women's Law Center of Maryland. The organization provides legal advice and advocacy for victims of domestic violence.


One bill, filed by Sen. Christopher B. Shank, a Washington County Republican, would expand protections for different types of women who face abusive relationships, whether those relationships have ended or not.

Another bill, filed by Del. Luiz Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat, would toughen the possible prison sentences for those who commit violent crimes when a minor is present in the same residence — as was the case when Hadel was killed.

Such legislation would help protect more women and children from domestic violence, Brown said, but there is still much to be done.

"The court system provides a lot of safety for victims. There are a lot of batterers who do respond to a court order to stay away from someone," Brown said. "Tragically, sometimes it doesn't work."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.