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Gary D. Schenker

Gary D. Schenker was an attorney who for the past 11 years had been in the office of the Baltimore County Public Defender.
Gary D. Schenker was an attorney who for the past 11 years had been in the office of the Baltimore County Public Defender.

Gary D. Schenker, an attorney who formerly worked in the Baltimore City state's attorney's office and for the past 11 years had been in the office of the Baltimore County Public Defender, died Oct. 15 at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center of a cardiac arrest. The Owings Mills resident was 61.

"He was very competent and professional. He was a very fair-minded person when looking at cases, which he reviewed very carefully," said Howard B. Gersh, who had known Mr. Schenker since he was a teenager and was his supervisor in the state's attorney's office.

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Mr. Gersh co-prosecuted several cases with Mr. Schenker.

"Gary was excellent in the courtroom. He also had an incredible sense of humor and all of the defense lawyers and prosecutors trusted and liked him," said Mr. Gersh, who is currently a prosecutor with the Maryland State Police. "And as a public defender, he could see all sides of a case."

Donald G. Zaremba worked with Mr. Schenker for the past 11 years in the office of the Baltimore County Public Defender.

"Gary was the consummate professional who was always prepared. He thoroughly reviewed cases, knew the law and had a tremendous amount of experience before he came to us," said Mr. Zaremba. "He was also very good at sharing his experiences and what he knew with our younger attorneys."

The son of Jack Schenker, a rent collector, and Lucille Roth Schenker, a receptionist, Gary David Schenker was born in Augusta, Ga.

"We were adopted and neither one of us ever wanted to search for our birth parents," said his brother, Steven Schenker of Hunt Valley, a corporate attorney. "We were brought up in a loving household by wonderful, loving parents."

Mr. Schenker was raised on Parsons Avenue in Lochearn and graduated in 1971 from Woodlawn High School. He was a 1975 graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and earned his law degree in 1978 from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

He began his career with the Baltimore state's attorney's office in 1979.

In 1995, Mr. Schenker successfully prosecuted a case in which Brian K. Abrams was found guilty of murdering a John Doe in the 1400 block of Key Highway. City police were never able to identify the victim.

As she imposed a sentence of eight years for the murder, Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe said, "There's no victim's family to be heard from. I'm sure he had one. It's a terrible way to die," reported The Baltimore Sun at the time.

Another celebrated case that Mr. Schenker co-prosecuted with Mr. Gersh was the 1987 shooting of Gene Cassidy, a Baltimore police officer who was shot twice in the head while making an arrest. He was left blinded.

The shooting of Officer Cassidy and his survival not only made him a legend among city police officers but also became the subject of a story in David Simon's "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets."

Mr. Schenker retired from the city state's attorney's office in 2003 and went to work in Baltimore County.

"He handled many of our serious cases and Gary knew just what to say and do in the courtroom. And he knew at what moment to do it in a court proceeding. That is a great talent," said Mr. Zaremba.

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"Gary could say more with one raised eyebrow in a summation and he knew exactly how to time it. He really had that down," said Mr. Zaremba.

"He was very smooth as a lawyer and had a great sarcastic wit. You could read him by the way he looked, especially when he knew he had somebody," his brother said.

Mr. Schenker brought his theatrical abilities to the courtroom and in telling a joke, colleagues said.

"He could come across as a gruff and curmudgeonly person and his face often matched the joke that he was about to say when he delivered the punch line," said Mr. Zaremba with a laugh. "Gary is going to be greatly missed."

"I think one of the things I learned about Gary through this whole process is how much everyone really looked up to him as a teacher and a mentor," said his wife of 24 years, the former Wendy Zerwitz, who is a family and juvenile court master for the Circuit Court of Baltimore County.

Mr. Schenker enjoyed fishing, hunting and visiting Deep Creek Lake.

Mr. Schenker was a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation.

Services were held Oct. 19 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Schenker is survived by his son, Robert J. Schenker, a law student at the University of Baltimore Law School who lives in Owings Mills; and many nieces and nephews.

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