Loss to the community

January 08, 1997


Staff Writer

WOLFSVILLE, Md. - When Linda Grossnickle next enters the church she attended with her friends and neighbors, she will look toward the pew near the front where Linda Delauter always sat.

"Without her presence there will always be something missing," Grossnickle said Tuesday.

A fellow church member is accused of killing Delauter and shooting at Grossnickle, who narrowly escaped injury. The women apparently were targeted because they were helping the man's estranged wife, friends and a Frederick County prosecutor said.

Delauter was the person to whom many in the tightly knit community located amid rolling farm fields in western Frederick County turned when they needed a friend, her minister said.


The community seems to revolve around the Grossnickle Church of the Brethren and the small Wolfsville Elementary School.

Delauter was heavily involved with both: A Sunday school teacher, a church deacon, a school bus driver.

"She was a beautiful person who lived to serve other folks and was dedicated to her family," said the Rev. Ronald A. Beverlin of the Grossnickle Church of the Brethren. "If you needed it, she was there to give it."

"The community centered around Linda," he said.

Delauter and Grossnickle had helped Barbara Manna through difficult times in the past, according to friends and court records.

When Manna separated from her husband in 1993, and again in September, the two offered her their support, and Ralph Manna appears to have blamed them for his problems with his estranged wife, said Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle.

Delauter was killed and Grossnickle narrowly escaped injury after shots were fired at her late Monday. Ralph Manna was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Grossnickle declined to comment on a possible motive for the shooting.

"This was not a lady of any violence. This was a loving, caring person," Grossnickle said. "Her home was always open to anyone. I do know she opened her home, she opened it to people who had nowhere else to go."

"She was truly, I believe, just a very popular person," Rolle said. "A close-knit family, a large group of friends."

Rolle said it seemed like people across Frederick County knew Delauter, whether through her work as a school bus driver, or from church or through her children, including a son who is a local attorney.

"It's rocked the community," Rolle said.

The Mannas, Delauters and Grossnickles all attended Grossnickle Church of the Brethren, the minister said.

Barbara Manna is a popular, outgoing person in the church while her husband, a self-employed contractor who spread lime on farms, was a quiet man, friends said.

Another victim in Monday night's shooting spree was Richard Sanchez, 48, of Waynesboro, Pa., who was wounded by gunfire.

His wife, Candace Sanchez, 43, said she and her husband knew the Mannas through their hobby of flying private planes. The couples kept a hanger at the Washington County Regional Airport.

Candace Sanchez said she works for the Department of Energy and used to work at Fort Ritchie. Richard Sanchez, 48, is a retired Army warrant officer who also used to work at Fort Ritchie, she said.

Sanchez said that neither she nor her husband had been in contact with Manna for two or three months. She said she had no idea why Manna would shoot her husband and not shoot her.

The coming days will be a difficult time for the 500-member Grossnickle Church of the Brethren, Beverlin said.

It would be easy to whip up the community to hate the man suspected of killing Delauter, but she would have been the last person in the world who would want that, he said.

"Linda would not want us to do that," Beverlin said. "Linda is such a peaceful person."

Delauter was a contract school bus driver for 25 years in Frederick County.

Frederick County Public Schools Associate Superintendent David Markoe said the students and staff at Wolfsville Elementary School, where Delauter dropped off and picked up children, were devastated by her death.

The school, with 198 children ages 5 to 10, is a "small, close-knit school," he said.

"It was a pretty tough day for the kids at Wolfsville Elementary," Markoe said.

Counselors and extra staff were sent to the school to help counsel the children, he said.

Janice Coulby, of Wolfsville, said Delauter had been a favorite bus driver of her two teenage children when they attended Wolfsville Elementary School.

"She drove my kids to school for eight years and she was always pleasant and easy to get along with," Coulby said.

Married, with three sons and seven grandchildren, Delauter was preceded in death by a daughter.

"She was a friend to everybody," said Fay Beverlin, the minister's wife and also a school bus driver. "There was a family in the church who did not have money to buy warm clothing for the winter. Linda would always see they got a Christmas gift, whether a coat or something else they needed."

Staff Writers Steven T. Dennis and Franca Lewis contributed to this story.

The Herald-Mail Articles