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A 31-year-old Lexington Park man was arrested Tuesday and charged with the murder of a nurse whose body was found Aug. 9 near Three Notch Trail in Laurel Grove.

John Morris Quade Jr., who according to police is a registered sex offender, became a primary suspect in the killing of Moneta Jo Strickland, 32, after a review of video surveillance by detectives from a business in the area revealed a suspicious vehicle and person in the area during the time frame of the homicide, according to the St. Mary’s County Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

BCI detectives were able to learn the identity of the owner and knew him to be a registered sex offender, according to a police statement. Quade also matched the description of a suspicious person observed on the trail by a citizen prior to the incident, the statement said.

Detectives executed a search and seizure warrant at Quade’s residence and recovered evidence linking Quade to the homicide, according to the police statement.

Quade was taken into custody Tuesday without incident while leaving his residence and transported to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, where he was interviewed by detectives, according to the statement. After the interview, he was taken to the St. Mary’s County Detention Center and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and robbery.

Strickland was found dead Friday near the Three Notch Trail, where police and friends say she routinely ran and biked.

Relatives and friends reported Strickland missing on Aug. 9 after she had not been seen since the afternoon before when she left to go to a park near her mother’s home in Mechanicsville.

Strickland’s vehicle was found at John V. Baggett Park at Laurel Grove where she went several times a week to walk, jog or bike along the connected Three Notch Trail, according to Capt. Terry Black. After a search of the area by officers and police dogs, the victim was found dead about 10 yards from the trail in a wooded area, approximately one-half mile north of the park, he said.

The cause of the death was blunt-force trauma to the body, Black said Tuesday.

An autopsy was conducted at the chief medical examiner’s office in Baltimore and her death was ruled a homicide, according to a statement by the St. Mary’s County Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

Before the arrest, Black would not comment on whether the crime seemed random or planned, but did say the victim was found fully clothed and there were no signs of a sexual assault.

He said it was the first serious incident he is aware of along that section of the Three Notch Trail.

The hiking and biking trail is being constructed in chunks along a 28-mile, county-owned former railroad right of way. The first section opened in 2006.

Before her death, Strickland had worked as a registered nurse since 2011 at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown.

Amanda Dyson, a registered nurse who supervises colleagues in the hospital’s telemetry unit, said Strickland had an excellent bedside manner. “All of the patients enjoyed spending time with her,” Dyson said. “She was very sweet.”

She said Strickland talked about fitness and exercise, including bicycling and running. Strickland also had been planning a wedding; she was engaged to be married next March, Dyson said.

Black said that Strickland resided with her fiance in a home in California.

Strickland graduated from Leonardtown High School in 1998 and went on to earn a master’s degree in public health. She later pursued her nursing degree.

“We’re all in a state of shock and grieving. It’s hard to imagine anyone would want to hurt her,” Dyson said.

After Quade’s arrest, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations offered thanks to the Maryland State Police Criminal Enforcement Division, Calvert Investigative Team, Calvert County K-9 Search and Rescue Team, Southern Maryland Information Center, Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the citizens of St. Mary’s County for their assistance in the case.

jyeatman@somdnews.com