Guest found dead after mock murder party

February 19, 1998

Guest found dead after mock murder party

ST. MICHAELS, Md. (AP) - A murder mystery party took a bizarre turn when two hours after the mock whodunit was solved, the body of a guest at the golf resort was found badly burned.

Stephen Hricko, 35, watched ''The Bride Who Cried,'' an audience participation mystery about the poisoning of a groom at a wedding, with his wife on Valentine's Day. About 1:30 a.m. Sunday, his body was found in his room at the Harbourtowne Golf Resort and Conference Center, police said.

''It's very spooky and ironic that this happened,'' said Steve Kehoe, an Easton attorney who played the murder victim in the show last Saturday.


Deputy State Fire Marshal Faron Taylor said Wednesday he can't rule out a connection between the mystery play and Hricko's death until his investigation is complete. Equally possible is mere coincidence, he said.

''We just don't know right now,'' Taylor said.

Hricko, the golf course superintendent at Patuxent Greens Country Club, in Laurel, Md., had gone to St. Michaels to spend the weekend with his wife, Kimberly, after a friend of his who works at the Harbourtowne golf course apparently suggested the trip to him.

The murder mystery show is so popular, the resort had two performances running at once the night Hricko and his wife watched it.

During the play, actors greet the guests as if all had just left a happy wedding ceremony. Then, during a banquet, a commotion begins when the bride's mother spills wine. Poison is somehow slipped into the groom's cup and he drops dead during a toast.

Two hours after the make-believe murder, the fire in cottage 506 was reported, according to Taylor. He would not say where Hricko's wife was at the time of the fire.

Taylor said Hricko had been burned from the torso up. He said Hricko's injuries were consistent with the fire, which was confined to the guest room in a limited area around the bed, where the blaze was believed to have begun.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire.

Hricko's body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore to determine the cause of death. The examiner's office said a report was not expected to be released until Thursday at the earliest.

Hricko is scheduled to be buried in State College, Pa., on Friday.

The incident shocked Bobbi Benitz, of Easton, who wrote and produced the play and even acted as the murderer in one version staged last Saturday.

''I just hope and pray the man was not poisoned,'' Benitz said.

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