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Police seek man in homicide probe

November 15, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Police on Friday night were looking for a man seen Wednesday walking along Md. 64/Jefferson Boulevard near White Hall Road as part of the homicide investigation into Shirley Finfrock's death that morning.

Police want to question the man, but he is not considered a suspect, Sgt. Mark Knight of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said.

Finfrock, 68, was found beaten to death Wednesday morning about 11:30 a.m. in her 22128 Holiday Drive home near Smithsburg, police said. Police have not named any suspects, and no arrests had been made by Friday night, Knight said.

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The Maryland State Medical Examiner's Office ruled Thursday that Finfrock died of blunt force trauma. Her death was the first homicide in Washington County this year.

Police received a description of the man being sought from a Chewsville woman. Two more Smithsburg women said Thursday they had seen the man walking along the railroad tracks, and a sketch artist sat down with one of the women Friday, Knight said.

The man was described as white, about 40 years old, 5 feet 8-10 inches tall and with a medium build. He has light brown hair, which falls above his shoulders, sunken eyes and high cheekbones.

The man wore a heavy flannel shirt that may have been blue, tan, black and white. He also wore baggy jeans, black sneakers and a royal blue T-shirt.

Knight said the man is "just a person of interest that we'd like to talk to. ... We don't want him to be afraid to come forward."

Knight said police believe the man may walk the railroad tracks that run behind the Finfrock's home often enough that he could have seen something suspicious.

"We want to find out what he knows," Knight said.

Finfrock's husband, Edwyn L. Finfrock, known to friends as Lee, found his wife's body. He had left about 6:30 a.m. for work and returned about 11:30 a.m.

When investigators arrived, they found her body in her bedroom, Knight said Friday. She had been beaten to death, but Knight would not say if that was where she was killed.

A rear window appeared to have been broken around that time, police said.

Police recovered what was believed to be the murder weapon inside the home, but Knight would not confirm what type of weapon was used.

"The only other person that knows about it is the suspect. ... We want to keep it like that for a while," Knight said.

Investigators sealed off the home immediately. Tactical police teams that were in the area searched the neighborhood and nearby railroad tracks.

Detectives and forensic experts worked into early Thursday morning at the Finfrock home. They returned Thursday and again Friday.

Police have interviewed dozens of people, including Finfrock family members, neighbors and callers, Knight said.

Lee Finfrock's green Chevrolet pickup was towed from the home to the Sheriff's Department Thursday afternoon, Knight said. The Sheriff's Department finished its search inside the Finfrock's home Friday afternoon.

Knight said the evidence that had been gathered - he estimated more than 100 pieces had been collected - would be shipped to a Maryland State Police crime lab for processing. Results from those tests and further autopsy results could be weeks away, Knight said.

Knight said five Sheriff's Department investigators and a half-dozen forensic analysts and detectives from the Western Maryland Regional Crime Lab in Hagerstown and the Maryland State Police are assisting.

Knight said the investigation is going "slowly," but expressed hope that clues would keep coming forth.

"We're gonna go slow and make sure we're not gonna miss anything," Knight said. "Everybody knows that the first 48 hours, 72 hours are crucial. ... We want that interest to stay high."

Family members contacted by telephone have declined to comment.

Knight asked that anyone who may have seen the man described by the witnesses or anything suspicious in the area call investigators at 240-313-2170. Cpl. Roy Harsh, the lead investigator, can be reached at 240-313-2183.

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