Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

It was a savage, senseless and random crime that took a young woman’s life and shook a community’s sense of safety and security.

Moneta Jo Strickland, 32, was a registered nurse who worked at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. She was engaged to be married early next year. Her body was found last Friday in a wooded area about 10 yards from the Three Notch Trail in Laurel Grove, a trail she regularly hiked and biked. She’d been reported missing by friends and relatives.

Her death shattered a peaceful St. Mary’s County summer, leaving many with a growing sense of uneasiness during the next four days. On Tuesday afternoon, though, the St. Mary’s County Bureau of Criminal Investigations announced that a 31-year-old Lexington Park man, a registered sex offender, was arrested and charged with this young woman’s murder.

The suspect’s guilt or innocence will be settled in court, not here. But this we know. The arrest was made after reviewing video from a security camera from a business near John V. Baggett Park, where the victim’s vehicle was found. And a citizen provided a description of a suspicious person seen on the trail before the murder.

And so it was a combination of technology and a sharp-eyed witness who came forward that led to an arrest.

We’re all at least dimly aware that we are under constant surveillance, with security cameras trailing us at businesses and public places, satellites taking photos of our homes that are then made easily accessible on the Internet, and the federal government, we now know, able and willing to keep tabs on our emails and phone calls.

All this watching by unseen eyes may make us uneasy, even if we have nothing to hide, and how much surveillance is too much should be an ongoing debate.

But this is how we protect ourselves now: by checking the video cameras that spend most of their time monitoring utterly uninteresting activity for clues to solve crimes and stop new ones from occurring.

As always, however, we also rely on people who keep their minds and eyes engaged when they see suspicious activities, and who call police to tell what they know.

The arrest of a suspect this week after last week’s tragedy helped restore a sense of order to the community. The crime, however, leaves a permanent scar in the lives of the family and friends of a young woman who devoted her professional life to a healing profession. Many of them, and others touched by the loss of Moneta Jo Strickland, gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil to remember her.

Their grief is shared by many others in St. Mary’s County, which is not immune to incomprehensible evil but where there is some comfort in knowing that many thousands of people still care about and watch out for one another.