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Dead body identified

June 30, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A badly decomposed body found Friday on an embankment on Hopps Landing Road has been identified as Lawrence "Larry" Mitchell Skoczynski, a 46-year-old Hagerstown man with an extensive criminal history, who was released from the Washington County Detention Center on June 8, according to the Sheriff's Department and court records.

Skoczynski's death has not been ruled a homicide, but his death still is under investigation, Sheriff's Department Investigator Ryan Shifflet said. He said that a forensic expert on bugs determined Skoczynski had been dead for between three and four weeks, but environmental conditions could have altered that estimation, when his body was found Friday afternoon by a resident of Hopps Landing Road, a private gravel road off Broadfording Road, west of Hagerstown.

Sgt. Mark Knight, supervisor of the department's investigation unit, said it's "totally possible" that it only has been two weeks, closer to the time of Skoczynski's release from jail, when he died.

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Doctors in the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, who performed Skoczynski's autopsy Saturday, have not found any visible wounds or fractures on his body, but they still need to run more tests, Shifflet said.

"We still have a lot of things to look into," he said.

His identification was made from a fingerprint by Maryland State Police's Forensic Sciences Latent Print Unit.

Skoczynski, whose last known address was a Hagerstown halfway house, originally was from Baltimore, Shifflet said.

Court records show Skoczynski was sentenced May 10 to serve 90 days, with credit for time served, at the county jail after he pleaded guilty to crack possession and crack paraphernalia possession in Washington County District Court. A jail spokeswoman said Skoczynski was released from the jail on June 8. The charges were brought against him after he was found with crack in a Broadway apartment that was under investigation for drug activity, court documents state.

Court records on Skoczynski that date to 1982 show he has been charged with drug possession, robbery, alcohol container violations, battery, disorderly conduct and several theft counts over the years.

He was sentenced in February 2002 to serve three years in prison for a September 2001 West Washington Street Waypoint Bank robbery in which Skoczynski, holding one of his hands in a bag, stole $743 after he demanded money from a teller, according to court records.

Knight said Skoczynski's criminal history "doesn't really raise any more suspicion."

He said he is aware that Skoczynski has a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

"It would be nice if he does have that history of abuse, if they could say he died of an overdose or something," Knight said. "At this point, it's undetermined."

Shifflet said making an identification on the body was difficult partly because he wasn't carrying a wallet or identification. He said Skoczynski had money in his pocket.

Shifflet found a temporary cell phone in Skoczynski's possession, which had enough battery power to enable him to call the last dialed number, he said. A woman who answered that number gave a name, which Shifflet passed along to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to check against, he said. Shifflet said Skoczynski's fingers were badly decomposed, but the lab was able to pull a print.

Skoczynski was found Friday about 3:20 p.m. by Hopps Landing Road resident Steve Pettner, who was out searching for his daughter when he came across Skoczynski's body. The body was on an embankment that runs next to Conococheague Creek.

Hopps Landing Road is a narrow gravel private road that forks off Broadfording Road just before the bridge, which is under construction. Lined with trees and overgrown foliage, the road runs up a hill parallel to Conococheague Creek until the forest opens to unveil 13 mostly run-down cabins, half of which are vacant.

The spot where Skoczynski's body was found is near where 58-year-old Darrius Allen Fetterhoff was found beaten, robbed and left for dead on Aug. 20, 1997, Knight has said. Fetterhoff later died.

Thomas Clifford Wallace was convicted in November 2000 of first-degree murder for Fetterhoff's death and was sentenced to life without parole, according to published reports.

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