GALENA — The suspect in what is being investigated as a double homicide in Delaware on Tuesday led law enforcement from two states on a high-speed chase that ended in a single-vehicle crash just south of Galena.
He was airlifted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where he died as a result of injuries that included a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.
The man, 47, and his two female victims, ages 21 and 38, have not been identified pending notification of next of kin, according to a Delaware State Police news release that was posted on the agency’s website Wednesday morning.
The man and the 38-year-old woman were husband and wife, according to the DSP.
The two female victims knew each other, police said.
Kent County Sheriff John F. Price said his deputies started monitoring the chase on their police radios at 11:20 a.m. — about an hour after a fatal shooting at Smyrna Middle School in Delaware. The suspect entered Kent County at 11:24 a.m. and “was engaged,” Price said.
The suspect spent 23 minutes in the county, wrecking his car in the area of Tri-Gas and Oil on state Route 213 at 11:47 a.m., Price told the Kent County News on Wednesday.
Delaware State Police reported that the two shootings on Tuesday morning occurred at two separate locations in Smyrna.
No motive has been established.
Just before 10:30 a.m., Delaware state troopers responded to assist the Smyrna Police Department with a reported shooting in the parking lot at the middle school on Duck Creek Parkway.
According to the preliminary investigation, the man and his wife arrived at the school together in the wife’s vehicle to pick up their daughter for a medical appointment. The couple had a verbal exchange outside of the vehicle, which led to the male suspect pulling the victim back into the vehicle where he shot her.
The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the DSP news release.
The school was placed on lockdown as police began their search for the suspect, who fled the scene alone in the vehicle the couple arrived in.
He made his getaway in another vehicle that was registered to him and parked nearby, police reported.
Delaware state troopers located the suspect’s vehicle at about 11 a.m. in the area of U.S. Route 13 and Del. Route 42, and a pursuit ensued.
The suspect fled Delaware into Caroline County, Maryland, and then into Queen Anne’s County and crossed the Chester River bridge into Kent County, according to Price.
Price said he had been alerted by the Caroline County sheriff that a murder suspect was headed toward Kent.
The suspect speeded through Chestertown on state Route 213 (Maple Avenue and Washington Avenue), turned onto the state Route 291 bypass and followed the roundabout in the 800-block of High Street, and then turned onto Flatland Road.
From Flatland Road, the suspect turned onto Mary Morris Road and then state Route 297 past Worton Park and the Kent County Community Center.
He turned right onto state Route 298 and got back onto Route 213 in the area of Molly’s Place near Kennedyville, swerving around stop sticks the Kent County Sheriff’s Office had put down there in an attempt to deflate his tires.
At this point, at about 11:45 a.m., DFC Parker Hudson was able to get behind the suspect. Hudson was close enough that his dashboard camera filmed the last three miles of the chase, Price said.
As the suspect was approaching Galena on Route 213, his vehicle made a sharp left turn, became airborne over a field and then crashed into a patch of trees, Price said.
Police reported that the suspect was at times traveling 100 to 125 mph.
No one other than the suspect was injured.
Members of the sheriff’s office command staff and criminal investigation division, off-duty deputies who live in the Galena area, Chestertown Police Department PFC Howard Eveland who was on his way to work and state police aviation participated in the pursuit.
Deputies with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office were waiting at the Kent-Cecil line had the chase continued over the Sassafras River bridge.
At the crash scene, a handgun was located in the vehicle’s front floorboard and the suspect had a gunshot wound to the head, according to police.
DFC Hudson, a medic on the sheriff’s entry team, immediately rendered aid.
“After having witnessed a traumatic scene, he had the presence of mind to react like that and care for a person who had just killed someone,” Price said of Hudson, who also was a medic in the Army before joining the sheriff’s office in 2017.
Price said Hudson’s actions were “extremely commendable. ... He tried to do the best he could to save the suspect’s life.”
An ambulance crew from the Galena Volunteer Fire Company and Kent County paramedics responded to the scene.
During the course of the investigation Tuesday, Delaware state troopers obtained information that there could be a second victim. With the assistance of Smyrna police, the DSP responded to the 800-block of McLane Gardens to check on the welfare of a 21-year-old female who was an acquaintance of the suspect’s wife.
She was located inside the residence with apparent gunshot wounds, and was pronounced deceased at the scene, according to police.
The bodies have been turned over to the Division of Forensic Science where autopsies will be performed to determine the manner and cause of death.
The Delaware State Police Homicide Unit and Smyrna Police Department are continuing to investigate what is preliminarily being looked at as a suspected murder/suicide incident.
There is no concern for public safety, according to police.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sgt. Stephen Yeich of the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit at 302-741-2703. Information also may be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333.
ROCK HALL — After two years at Kent County Middle School, Joe Graf has been promoted to principal of the high school here.
The announcement was made at a meeting of the Kent County Board of Education Monday, April 26, with Graf and his family in attendance. Also at the meeting, the board approved changing the date of graduation from the traditional Saturday event to a Friday.
Graf, a Chesapeake City resident, was hired by Kent County Public Schools in 2019 as the vice principal for Kent County Middle School in Chestertown. He came here from Cecil County Public Schools, where he was the special education building coordinator and football coach for Bohemia Manor High School.
Graf said he enjoys the multi-faceted aspect of Kent County High School in Worton, including the academics, the sports and the Career and Technology Education program. He also said he is excited to work with the teachers at the high school.
“I loved my time at the middle school here, so I look forward to taking some of that knowledge and head it toward the high school,” Graf said.
Kent County Middle School Principal Mary Helen Spiri said Graf has been extraordinary to work with.
“He has wonderful relationships with kids and families,” Spiri said. “And he’s committed to Kent County. He wants to be here for the long run.”
Spiri said she will miss having Graf at the middle school, but looks forward to working with him at the high school.
“That’s going to be a strong collaboration,” Spiri said.
Graf holds a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Frostburg State University and a master’s in educational administration from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. He is a graduate of Bo Manor, Class of 2003.
Graf takes over the position of principal at Kent County High School from Dale Kevin Brown, who has been on leave since February. Brown was hired by Kent County Public Schools in 2019.
Also at the April 26 meeting, board members unanimously approved changing the date of graduation at the high school from Saturday, June 5 to Friday, June 4.
Kent County Public Schools Supervisor of Secondary Education and Student Services Tracey Williams, herself a former principal at the high school, said that for health safety purposes, the plan is to hold graduation outside at Trojan Stadium in a shortened ceremony that will not have a guest speaker.
Williams said an overwhelming majority of students and families who responded to a survey favored the date change, as did 100% of the teachers at the high school.
ROCK HALL — No matter the results of the Town of Rock Hall’s election Saturday, there will be at least one new face among the current lineup of council members.
James Cook, Walter Elburn Jr., Brian Jones, David Jones and David Mayne are all looking to be that new face. Councilperson Tim Edwards also is seeking reelection to keep his spot on the council, while Vice Mayor Beth Andrews is not.
The League of Women Voters of Kent County partnered with the Greater Rock Hall Business Association to host a forum for the candidates Monday via the video conferencing app Zoom. Though the majority of the hour and a half long forum was without issue, David Jones was not able to connect to the Zoom and did not answer any of the questions.
Each candidate was given two minutes to answer the questions posed by Lynn Dolinger, who served as the moderator, or those submitted by audience members. Candidates also were given two minutes for opening and closing statements.
Edwards, who was elected to the council in 2017, said he retired from nearly 30 years of working for the Town of Rock Hall and “went right to the council.”
“I’m very, very familiar with the infrastructure of this town,” Edwards said. “I know we need to replace it, but it takes time. That’s one of the things I learned on the council is that nothing happens overnight.”
Questions concerning how to go about fixing infrastructure — by raising taxes or finding grants to pay for the repairs or updates — were a focus of the forum.
Noting many of the citizens in the town are low income or seniors on fixed incomes, Edwards said he is against raising taxes unless there is no other choice.
“We’ve got to find a way, if we raise taxes, not to penalize people that don’t have it to start with,” Edwards said.
As the town is currently going through a water meter update that may affect residents water bills — given the improved accuracy of new meters — Edwards said the council should wait until the new readings come in before making changes to rates.
Elburn, who introduced himself as having lived in Rock Hall for most of his life, said his work as a plumber in places like the World Bank in Washington, D.C. lends itself to the town’s current infrastructure issues.
Elburn spoke against raising taxes to pay for infrastructure updates though, saying he would “knock on the governor’s door” if needed to get more tax money coming into Rock Hall.
“We’ve got to find the money somewhere,” Elburn said. “We can’t expect people to keep dishing out money.”
He also spoke in favor of promoting events within the town to bring in tourists who will, in turn, spend money at the town’s businesses. He said the council could take a piece of that revenue and put it toward funding infrastructure expenses.
Mayne, who said he’s resided in the Harbor Woods neighborhood for more than seven years, said the council is a place to serve the citizens of Rock Hall and create positive impacts on the “issues and concerns that matter to us all.”
Mayne has served on the town’s Planning and Zoning Board, is a past president of a more than 400-seat homeowners association and an assistant vice president and technical operations manager at a regional bank, he said.
While Mayne praised the council for rebuilding the town’s line of credit, he said the reality is the town may need to further raise taxes to fund necessary projects. He said his priority on the council will be “sound, financially responsible governing with a focus on transparency, honesty and above all respect for the townspeople we serve.”
Brian Jones, a lifelong resident of Rock Hall who was elected to the council in 2011 and then elected mayor until 2019 when he lost re-election to current Mayor Dawn Jacobs, said he thinks he can have a positive impact by serving on the council again.
“I’ve found serving my community as an active participant very rewarding,” Brian Jones said. “My decision to run for the Rock Hall town council again was motivated by the desire to utilize my skill, knowledge and several years of municipal government experience. I do believe I can make a positive impact on the community where I live, support and believe in.”
Brian Jones said he was able to have a balanced budget during his time as mayor. Speaking to raising taxes, he said the process is sometimes inevitable to fund improvements in the town. He spoke in favor of grant funding for infrastructure improvements as opposed to raising taxes “just because you can.”
A 15-year resident of Kent County, James Cook said he works for a civil engineering firm where he works with towns to secure funding for infrastructure projects.
“There’s a lot of grant funding out there. There’s a lot of subsidizing funding you can get from local, state and federal organizations,” Cook said. “There’s a lot of funding out there, we just need to know how to navigate these large bureaucracies in order to bring it back here. And that’s something I do every day.”
Cook said he has worked with Vikki Prettyman, technical assistance provider with Southeast Rural Community Assistance Program. SERCAP is a nonprofit working with the council to find funding as it updates it infrastructure.
Further, Cook said he is not in favor of raising property taxes because it tends to disproportionally affect residents with lower incomes. Instead, he said he would consider raising water and sewer rates if necessary.
A perennial question for Rock Hall, an audience member asked what the candidates would do to offer more opportunities for young people and seniors living there. The question also prompted a discussion of how to attract more young families into the town.
While Elburn said since his time growing up in the town he has seen opportunities and spaces for play taken away from children, Mayne said there are still areas like the town’s Civic Center and playgrounds for local children’s use.
Mayne said there needs to be more young families in the town and the best way to accomplish that is through more jobs. Cook and Edwards also spoke in sport of finding a way to bring jobs to the town as a means of encouraging families to move there.
Brian Jones said there are events for seniors. He said there could be ways to market the town as an appealing place for people to move. He spoke highly of the town’s elementary school and parks as two selling points.
When the forum turned to audience questions about the town’s trams or trolley, which were not offered last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have been costly in the past, consensus found the council needs to find a away for the trams to pay for themselves if not be less expensive.
Edwards said the trams have cost the town as much as $100,000 a year in maintenance.
“That hurt,” he said.
He spoke against putting that burden on the taxpayers. Cook also spoke against the high cost and said the service of operating the tram should at least break even.
The election is set for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 1 in the Rock Hall Municipal Building’s auditorium. For more information, visit rockhallmd.com.