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Some women in St. Mary’s are feeling a little more vigilant and a little more vulnerable.

In the days following the murder last week of Moneta Jo Strickland, a 32-year-old registered nurse, whose body police found on Three Notch Trail in Laurel Grove where she frequently exercised, some women say they’re watching their backs, locking their doors and thinking of ways to defend themselves.

“Everywhere I’ve gone in the last three days, that’s been a point of conversation,” said Sandy Holtzem, coordinator for the women’s ministry at Lexington Park Baptist Church. They’re saying, “What would I do? What would my daughter do?”

The church has offered free women’s self-defense classes for years, and one is scheduled today, Friday, Aug. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m., and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. More are lined up for 2014.

“There’s scripture that talks about our bodies being a temple of the Lord,” Holtzem said. “Not only the things you eat and drink and do. But also in being able to protect yourself, defend yourself and make wise decisions about what kind of situations you put yourself in.”

The self-defense classes aren’t religious, Holtzem explained. But, she said, “it gives you kind of a confidence. “They’re real-world examples you might find yourself in,” she said, thinking more about Strickland’s murder. “It could happen anywhere to anybody,” she said.

“Nobody ever expected that here,” said Sandie Greene, registrar at the St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks, which also offers several self-defense classes. The department also is willing to offer sessions specifically for women if the interest is there, Greene said. “Maybe that will make people more aware.

“We as mothers do everything for our kids,” Greene said. “When there’s time left, we try to do something for ourselves.” That something, she said, should be a self-defense class. “Learn how to protect yourself. It’s not a luxury. It’s something that we need to make time for.”

Greene said her daughter knew Strickland and was too emotional to go to a candlelight vigil held for her Wednesday. Violent crime can make people feel violated. And, Greene indicated, it sends her motherly instincts into high gear, making her want to protect her family, and her community.

“It’s our park. It’s our trail. It’s our county. And she was our person,” Greene said of Strickland. “How could someone do something like this?”

“I’d be interested in a self-defense class, but I don’t know where they are,” said a woman who at first gave her full name, and later decided that she only wanted to be identified by her first name, Brenda. She was walking with a friend, Ava, in a busy park Thursday morning.

Brenda said women should be watchful, not just in parks and on trails, but wherever they go. She said she’s seen women leaving stores and checking their text messages instead of paying attention to their surroundings, or get out of their cars at gas stations and forgetting to lock their car doors.

When she exercises, Brenda said, “I never wear earplugs. It’s never at night, and it’s usually with a friend. There’s safety in numbers.”

Another woman, Rosetta, walked the same trail as Ava and Brenda, but she didn’t have a friend with her.

When asked, she said she’d also be interested in a self-defense class. “I think that would help me a lot,” Rosetta said.

Her exercise time is when she takes a few moments to meditate, to be to herself. “Sometimes, I pray,” she said. But, she’s been a bit more on edge since Strickland’s murder, saying she was startled when she heard someone behind her in the same park one morning this week. She jumped, turned around and realized it was a man on a bike.

“It just gives you the chills,” she said. She knew Strickland and her family and played softball with them.

“She was a very likeable person, a people’s person,” Rosetta said. “If you asked her to do something, she would do it.”

Rosetta said, she’s been thinking about it this week as she walked. “I got teary-eyed,” she said.

“She was a very smart young lady, a very educated young lady,” Rosetta said. “And, it makes you think: What if that was me?”

Self-defense training offered

Lexington Park Baptist Church has several women’s self-defense classes planned. One is scheduled this week, Friday, Aug. 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Registration is required, but may be done the day of the class. Call 301-862-2552, email office@LPBConline.org, or visit the church at 46855 South Shangri-La Drive. Classes are in the fellowship hall. Courses, offered by a certified female instructor, include ways to increase awareness, reduce and avoid risks, and basic physical defense training. More classes are scheduled for 2014.

The St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks also offers self-defense training for women, men and for children. Registration opens Aug. 26.

A Shotokan karate class is planned for Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m., at Lexington Park Elementary School. Fees are $60 for the 10-week course, Sept. 17 to Dec. 5.

Recreation and park also has scheduled a Shorin Ryu self-defense class Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m., at the Leonardtown Middle School recreation center annex, Sept. 26 to Dec. 5. Fee $45.

Call the parks department at 301-475-4200, ext. 1800, or visit www.stmarysmd.com/recreate.

nclark@somdnews.com