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Woman's house riddled in W.Va. shooting

November 04, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - She didn't realize it immediately, but the noise that awoke a Charles Town woman early Tuesday was that of bullets ripping into her living room.

Corinne Curtis, 65, a great-grandmother who works as a teacher's aide at Ranson Elementary School, was roused from sleep by a loud noise and the sound of breaking glass.

Curtis, who was not struck by any of the rounds, was to learn that her home had been riddled by 14 bullets, fired by at least one gunman parked outside her Hessy Street house.

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Julian Pace, 22, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was charged in the shooting after a police officer stopped him for driving without headlights.

Pace was charged with attempted first-degree murder and reckless endangerment in the incident, police said.

He also was charged with speeding, fleeing police, driving with no headlights on and reckless driving.

After being awakened at about 4:30 a.m., Curtis feared someone was breaking into her house through a window. She walked out of her bedroom and down a short hallway to her living room.

By the light of a lamp she had left burning in her living room she saw a hole in the wall.

"I didn't know what to think," Curtis said.

She said she looked around and could not believe the extent of the damage.

She could see bullet holes throughout the neatly furnished living room. Small, ragged holes in the pink drapes indicated that at least some of the bullets had come in through a front window. The rounds, fired from a 9mm handgun and a .45-caliber handgun, also had punched through exterior walls.

Several of the rounds appeared to have entered through the exterior walls and gone into the ceiling of the living room, leaving jagged, angled gashes.

Others traveled across the living room, through an interior wall separating the living room from the kitchen, and through the exterior wall on the other side of the house.

Curtis said she went to the phone to call 911 and the phone did not work. She went to another phone in the house and it also was not working.

"That's when it really hit me. I was in the house alone and I couldn't call for help. I didn't know if I should get out of the house or stay in," she said.

She said she dressed and went to a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store to use the phone.

At about the same time, at 4:49 a.m., Charles Town Police Cpl. Barry Shultz was on patrol when he spotted a car without headlights going east on North Street, court records said.

Shultz turned on his emergency lights to stop the driver, later identified as Pace, of 319 Boyd Ave., Martinsburg, according to court records.

The car took off through Charles Town and headed north on U.S. 340 at a high rate of speed, according to court records.

Shultz followed about 100 yards behind the car as the chase reached speeds of nearly 100 mph, court records said.

The driver appeared to lose control of the car while attempting to turn onto Country Club Road, court records said.

Shultz approached the driver and asked Pace why he had fled, according to court records. Pace told him that he had been at a bar and picked up a man he did not know, court records said. While driving with the man, the man fired shots from his vehicle into a house, Pace told police, court records alleged.

As Shultz questioned Pace, 911 dispatchers reported that a drive-by shooting had occurred on Hessy Street.

Police found two fired shell casings in Pace's car, court records said. Shultz said no weapons had been recovered as of Tuesday evening.

Outside Curtis' home, investigators found tire marks matching the tread of the tires on Pace's car, court records said.

Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge declined to comment on whether authorities were searching for a second person in connection with the shooting.

Curtis said she does not know why her house was a target.

Curtis, who has six children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grand children, said one of her grandsons had been staying with her, but she had made him move out because she was upset that he had not tried to find a job.

The grandson had been at her house earlier in the evening to do some laundry and she believes he may have been the intended target, Curtis said.

Aldridge said he was impressed by Curtis' courage when he arrived at her house early Tuesday.

"She's a very nice, really religious woman. A community leader. Just a nice lady. I've worked with her before in the past," Aldridge said.

He had met her through her work with her church and as a vice president of the Jefferson County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Curtis, whose husband died in 1979, said she was more shocked than frightened.

As she looked around at glass fragments, wood chips and drywall particles scattered around her otherwise immaculate living room, she said she often wakes early and sits in her living room, reading her Bible.

She said she feels blessed that she was not killed or injured in the gunfire.

"I just pray for the young man, or whoever did it," Curtis said.

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