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Store owner shot in 1982 robbery dies from injuries

Shot in the head in a robbery of his South Caroline Street business in 1982, Tsambikos Diakoloukas never fully recovered. He remained unable to move and in and out of consciousness, with his wife by his side helping to care for him. 

Diakoloukas died in December at the age of 79, and the medical examiner's office and prosecutors say he succummbed after all those years to the bullet fired into his head by robbers, who made off with $20 and an armload of jeans from his clothing and cleaning shop.

Because of how police are instructed to count homicides, Diakoloukas' shooting death will be listed among the homicides in 2014.

Diakoloukas' son, George, said his father never came home from the hospital.

"I grew up without a dad," he said. "He got shot 32 years ago, and he's been in the hospital the last 32 years."

The shooting occurred Aug. 17, 1982 in the 400 block of Caroline St. A news report at the time said Diakoloukas, identified as "Thomas," was robbed and pistol-whipped for $20, and was shot in the hand and suffered a "deep head cut." But the cut was actually a bullet wound, and Diakoloukas underwent surgery for severe brain trauma.

Diakoloukas had operated the store for 20 years. Two friends found him lying on the floor with a clothes rack on top of him, and told police they saw a man "disappear into a nearby city housing project" with an "armload of dungarees," the 1982 news article said.

John Themelis, the attorney and retired judge, was a family friend of Diakoloukas and said the shooting stunned the community.

"He was such a nice man that he'd deliver his customers' dry cleaning to their house," Themelis recalled. "The whole community and church community was outraged about the whole thing."

Police said two suspects were arrested and charged in the crime a week later - William Lawrence, who was 17 at the time, and Walter Heath, also 17. The case is so old that court records could not be accessed through the Maryland Judiciary Case Search web site, but George Diakoloukas said Lawrence remains incarcerated and was denied parole recently. 

The death will be listed among 2014's homicides, as police are instructed by the FBI to count deaths in the year that police become aware of them. Each year, several victims injured in prior years die from their injuries and are listed as homicide victims for the year they died.

Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article. 

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