Billboard shines light on unsolved Towson murder of Jody LeCornu, 22 years later

On March 2, 1996, Joann “Jody” LeCornu was found dead in her car at a York Road shopping center in Towson near the city-county line. The 23-year-old had been shot in the back, police say, by a man whose name to this day is unknown.

More than two decades later, Jennifer LeCornu Carrieri is still looking for her identical twin sister’s killer. On Monday morning, a day after the twins’ birthday, a billboard commissioned by Carrieri went up on northbound York Road in Baltimore.

“I just want to know what happened and find the person,” said Carrieri, of Easton. “It’ll never bring her back. It’s just, how can I just sit around and not find justice?”

The billboard, which beckons “FIND MY KILLER,” advertises a $32,000 reward from Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland for information on LeCornu’s murder. It stands at 5722 York Road, atop Nailah’s Kitchen in northern Baltimore City.

Shawn Vinson, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said calling renewed attention to cold-case investigations can prompt people with information to come forward who might not have been comfortable doing so initially.

“As time goes on people tend to feel more relaxed sharing information,” Vinson said, adding later, “If they were in a relationship with the suspect or friends with the suspect, maybe at this point they don’t feel intimidated.”

For Carrieri, 46, now married with children, the billboard is just one of her many efforts in recent years to call attention to the case in order to help keep it moving forward. Her husband worries about her overextending herself in her mission. "But I’m doing something,” she said.

‘Always together’

Twin sisters Jody and Jenny grew up together in Annapolis, daughters of the late John LeCornu, a former Anne Arundel County prosecutor.

“We were always together, always,” Carrieri said. They had the same room, the same classes, the same friends.

“They were so much fun to be around,” said Courtney Holtzman, a childhood friend who met the twins in middle school. “Jody was the life of the party, and Jenny was a little more reserved.”

The sisters shared joys, but also struggles. Their father struggled with alcohol, and both girls began drinking in their early teens, Carrieri said. Both sisters also experimented with drugs and struggled with anxiety and eating disorders. During their senior year in high school at St. Mary’s Annapolis, Carrieri said the twins’ parents put them both in rehab.

Eventually, their parents sent Jenny to a ranch in Wyoming to get her away from a boyfriend they disapproved of. She stopped drinking and decided to move West, to California, where she got engaged. Jody stayed behind, moving in with a boyfriend in Baltimore, and continued to struggle with alcohol, Carrieri said.

“She was such a good person but she struggled so much,” Carrieri said. “We both had really bad anxiety and were drinking to try to calm that anxiety.”

Separated for the first time in their young lives, the twins racked up phone bills, talking constantly. Carrieri remembers the last time she tried to call her sister on a Saturday morning and got no answer. She had a bad feeling.

Then her fiance came flying in the door. Carrieri’s parents had called. “Jody’s dead,” he said.

‘A part of me is gone’

To Carrieri, her sister’s death felt like losing a piece of herself.

"I’ll never be the same,” Carrieri said. "It changed my life. I was living one life, then you wake up and it’s like ... a part of me is gone. Like pieces being ripped out of me.”

It took years, Carrieri said, to wrap her head around her sister’s murder and the investigation that followed.

“You just go into shock,” she said. “All the details, it just didn’t register to me for so long. I was just like a zombie.”

Those details, learned through a police investigation that is still open because LeCornu’s killer has not been found, left Carrieri with more questions than answers.

First: What was Jody doing there, alone in the Drumcastle Government Center parking lot at 6401 York Road in Towson past 3 a.m. on March 2?

LeCornu had fought with her live-in boyfriend, Steve Dubin, that morning about her drinking, Carrieri said, saying he told her she should go to her parents’ house that night. The couple lived just over the city line on Gittings Avenue, less than a mile from where she was found.

Dubin declined to comment on the record for this story.

Police reports state that LeCornu spent the evening of March 1 at the Mt. Washington Tavern, where she was a regular. LeCornu drove an employee of the bar home after it closed, Carrieri said — something that seemed out of character for her anxious sister, especially while it was snowing. Afterward, LeCornu stopped at a liquor store to buy a six-pack of beer, Carrieri said.

Somehow, LeCornu ended up in the Drumcastle parking lot. One theory was that she was buying drugs, but Carrieri said that other than Xanax for her anxiety, her sister preferred alcohol to drugs. There were no drugs found in her system, Carrieri said.

LeCornu made some calls from the parking lot, Carrieri said – to the Mt. Washington Tavern and to a roommate’s boyfriend.

Then, according to news reports at the time, witnesses saw a stocky black male in a camouflage jacket drive up to where Le Cornu was parked in a white BMW. They may have had a conversation. Then, at 3:41 a.m., LeCornu was shot from behind — the bullet went through the driver’s-side rear window and through LeCornu’s seat, evidence photographs show. The bullet went into her spine.

Police said LeCornu managed to drive across York Road to the York Road Plaza shopping center and into the Giant grocery parking lot, between where the Firestone Auto Care and Boston Market stand. Carrieri said witnesses at neighboring businesses watched as the man in the BMW drove up to LeCornu’s car, reached inside to take something — police are not sure what — and slowly drove south on York Road.

‘It just doesn’t add up'

“It just doesn’t add up,” Carrieri said. She said police have cycled through — and ruled out — many theories: a robbery; a drug deal gone wrong; retribution for a case LeCornu’s father had prosecuted. Nothing led to an arrest. Now, 22 years later, no one has been charged in LeCornu’s killing.

“I’m not a detective, but to me honestly, this seems like it should not have been that difficult a case to solve early on,” Carrieri said. “They had a description of the vehicle, they had witnesses.”

Vinson, with the police department, said it is fairly rare for a case to go this long without an arrest. The majority of the county’s annual 25 to 30 homicide investigations are closed within the same year, he said.

In many of the remaining cases, Vinson said police have often developed a person of interest but do not have sufficient evidence to charge anyone.

“In this particular case, we haven’t received sufficient information to charge someone,” Vinson said. “But we’re always looking into possibilities, and detectives constantly review the case to see if there’s any options, especially with technology always improving.”

Vinson declined to share details of the case because it is an open investigation.

Carrieri sued the police department in 2016 to gain access to her sister’s case file in order to pursue a private investigation. She said she spent thousands of dollars and eventually had to settle with the department in 2017 without ever seeing the file. She was unable to disclose the terms of the settlement but said the department is communicating with her about the case.

Vinson declined to comment on the lawsuit but said that, in general, police do not disclose case files until an investigation is closed. Homicide investigations are only closed if police identify a suspect and make an arrest, he said.

Without progress on the case, Carrieri said she has taken it into her own hands to get the word out. She has done interviews for news media, podcasts and true crime documentaries. She created a website and a Facebook page. And now she is spending more than $3,000 to erect a billboard.

"Just seeing her, it's like her picture is so big, it felt like she was right there with me,” Carrieri said Monday after seeing the billboard for the first time. “It's like a mix of feelings. I'm really excited for it to be out there, to try to get more exposure."

“It’s been frustrating for her that she’s been taking this all on kind of on her own,” said Holtzman, the childhood friend. "I think she is absolutely amazing. It’s taken a lot out of her emotionally. She kind of can’t move on.”

Carrieri said she will never truly move on — but knowing who killed her sister might help.

“She’s always there,” Carrieri said. “You carry on with your life but there’s still a gulf of sadness. And you wonder: What happened?”

Police ask that anyone with information about the case call Baltimore County Police or submit an anonymous tip to Metro Crime Stoppers by calling 1-866-7LOCKUP.

asolomon@baltsun.com

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