- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Hampshire residents turned out en masse Wednesday evening for a forum in which Charles County law enforcement repeatedly emphasized that citizens’ tips were the key to solving a recent double-shooting homicide that left one woman dead, her husband clinging to life and a neighborhood in fear.
Board members of the Hampshire Neighborhood Association decided to hold the forum in lieu of the regular meeting to address the concerns of those in the community, many of whom are still afraid to go jogging or walk their dogs nearly two weeks after Teresa Ann Bass and her husband, Jerry Bass Jr., were gunned down on the evening of Oct. 26 while walking their dog along a path linking the Waldorf neighborhood and Westlake High School’s baseball field.
Charles County sheriff’s officers working security at the Westlake-Great Mills football game heard several gunshots and were on the scene within a minute.
Teresa Bass was taken by ambulance to Civista Medical Center in La Plata, where she died from her injuries.
Jerry Bass Jr. was flown to an area hospital, where he was at one point listed in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds in his back, Jerry Bass Sr. said at the forum.
A career Montgomery County firefighter, Bass Jr. spent more than a week in the hospital before being released. Bass Sr. said he came from his New Jersey home to aid in his son’s recovery.
“I don’t want any of you other families to endure something like this because it’s devastating,” Bass Sr. said. “I lost a beautiful daughter-in-law. I almost lost my son, my only son. So, Charles County police, I hope you guys can find this person because I don’t want anybody else to go through this.”
Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) urged those in the neighborhood to go about their daily lives but take “common-sense” precautions, such as avoiding secluded walks after dark.
“We really don’t feel like you’re in any danger on the bicycle paths, but we recommend if you walk, walk in numbers and go in the daylight,” Coffey said. “If we thought you were in any danger, we would be sleeping out there in the woods waiting for it to happen again.”
Last week, police released a sketch of the shooter, which Capt. Ray Aportadera, commander of the department’s Criminal Investigations Division, said was based on a description from Bass Jr.
The shooter’s motive is unknown, but detectives are looking into several possibilities. Aportadera said investigators have received more than 100 tips from the community but asked for patience because it takes time to follow up on each lead.
Officers have canvassed the neighborhood multiple times in search of potential witnesses and have maintained a presence since the shooting. They have handed out more than 3,000 fliers advertising a reward — which stands at $20,000 — for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case.
“You know who doesn’t belong in your neighborhood,” Maj. Robert Cleaveland said. “If you see something, say something.”
Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) expressed confidence in the sheriff’s office but echoed Aportadera’s message that it likely will be tips from the community that end up solving the case.
“Every crime out there, especially a violent crime, is really solved by you folks. It’s witnesses coming forward, not being afraid and telling the police what has happened,” Covington said. “There’s a saying: The street always knows who did whatever. ... You never know what little piece of information that you think doesn’t mean anything actually breaks the case wide open.”
Cleaveland encouraged residents to post information on the case using their social media accounts.
“It has been proven to solve cases in the past,” he said.
Charles County commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) also attended the forum and pledged any assistance that county government could provide.
Aportadera declined to specifically answer questions on whether the shooting was random or involved theft or drugs, citing the sensitive and ongoing nature of the investigation.
He did quash rumors that the shooting was gang-related, citing information received by the Southern Maryland Intelligence Center, which monitors gang activity in the region, that “there’s absolutely no connection to gangs.”
One woman expressed fear that if she called the police to report suspicious activity, officers would come to her home and identify her as the one who tipped off police. Aportadera said officers only knock on a tipster’s door if they specifically request as much.
Another woman asked how long the neighborhood’s increased police presence would last “so that I can have peace when my child goes to school every day,” but Aportadera could not give a definite answer on how long the extra patrols would last.
Another woman asked whether any consideration had been given to installing security cameras along the path.
“The easy answer to that is, it is an investigative tool, but are we going to tell you? No,” Aportadera said. “It is in our toolbox.”
Anyone with information in the case can call 301-932-2222. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS or go to www.ccso.us to submit a tip online.
Staff writer Lindsay Renner contributed to this report.