This Throwback Thursday post is more grim than usual but it’s something that happened in my past while I was growing up in Glen Burnie, Maryland between the ages of 5 and 19 (when I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park after spending my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College).

Okay, I’ll admit that I wasn’t happy growing up in that town mainly because I went through school being called “retarded” or “retard.” I had a bully swipe my yearbook in middle school about a day or two before school let out for the year (and when we were both scheduled to transfer to the high school the following September) and write some hateful stuff where she admitted that she loved to bully me. I finally turned tables on her a couple of years ago by putting that original yearbook signature along with her name (or the name that she went by at the time) and her yearbook photograph online so now anyone who does a Google search on her name will see that post turn up. And it’s a well-known fact that once you put something online, it will never fully go away so her name, her photograph, and her little hateful prank is enshrined online for all time just like her signature is unfortunately enshrined in my yearbook for all time (she wrote it in ink so I can’t erase it and even using White-Out won’t make it fully go away as if it had never been written in the first place).

Last summer I revisited my old high school for the first time in many years (when the school was closed for the year) and I took a photo of my hand giving the finger to that school.

If all that weren’t enough, my teenage years even included a murder that didn’t affect me directly but it still shocked me because I was a classmate of a girl who was the older sister of one of the murder victims. At the time that murder received extensive publicity in the local media. As I was doing a Google search on this case last week, I saw that this story had spread to other cities as well because I saw stories about it published in newspapers in Utica, New York, New Castle, Pennsylvania, and Boca Raton, Florida.

Eventually that murder receded in my mind as I grew up and left Glen Burnie. There was one time when I was reminded of this case as an adult when I was working at one of my old jobs several years ago. I was speaking with a co-worker one day and he admitted that he had lived in Glen Burnie at one point in the late 1970’s so we started talking about our common experiences with that town and he mentioned that case.

That case receded back into my mind again until last week. I joined a Facebook group called I remember Harundale when there was a mall and it’s basically a nostalgia group primarily focused on the now-demolished Harundale Mall (it was replaced by a shopping center, which I finally took pictures of last year) but the group frequently talk about other places in Glen Burnie as well.

Last week a guy made a post there about those long-ago murders that involved my former high school classmate’s younger sister. At first I wasn’t sure why he would want to dredge up something like that until I did a Google search under the murderer’s name and I found that this year is the 40th anniversary of those murders. I half-expected to see a Wikipedia page on this but—surprise!—there is no such page. I found a couple of old Washington Post articles along with an online archived collection of Baltimore Sun photos from that time so I’m going to recount the story of those murders right here.

Long before future child beauty queen-turned-murder victim JonBenét Ramsey was even born, a shocking murder took place in my hometown of Glen Burnie that was just as senseless as Ramsey’s murder would be years later.

The Old Mill Senior High School classmate I mentioned a few paragraphs ago was in the same grade as me and we even shared a couple of classes together. Her family went to the same Roman Catholic Church as my family but I didn’t see her often mainly because I was taken to the 9 a.m. mass every Sunday and I believe that her family may have sometimes gone to the 9 a.m. mass while going to mass at other times on other Sundays. While she seemed nice and she had never teased or bullied me, we weren’t close friends mainly because she lived with her family in a different neighborhood located two miles from the neighborhood where I grew up.

This classmate had a younger sister named Ann Brzeszkiewicz, who was eight at the time. Ann used to frequently play with two sisters who lived in the same neighborhood—eight-year-old Theresa Hogan and 10-year-old Deborah Hogan. The three girls frequently played in the nearby woods, which wasn’t unusual because many kids used to frequently play in those woods. In fact it was said that one could see a lot of forts made from found materials that the kids built in those woods.

As recounted in this 1977 Washington Post story, on Sunday, October 9, 1977 the three girls, along with another 10-year-old girl, had attempted to go to the woods that afternoon but they found that the trails were too soaked from a recent rainstorm. The four of them went to the Brzeszkiewicz home where they played some more. The 10-year-old girl left at 6 p.m. leaving behind Ann Brzeszkiewicz and the Hogan sisters. An hour later the three young girls decided to leave Ann’s home to go back to the woods.  A neighbor last saw them at 7 p.m. as they headed towards the woods. But then they failed to return home. The Hogan parents called the Brzeszkiewicz home around 8:30 p.m. to see if their daughters were still there only to find that none of the girls were present. The Brzeszkiewicz father got in his car and drove to all of the girls’ usual play areas and shined a flashlight around while calling out their names—to no avail.

The parents soon called the police, who conducted an all-night massive search of the area. On Monday morning they made a very grisly discovery in the woods—all three girls were found stabbed to death while lying face down in a shallow muddy stream. Two of the girls were stabbed more than 30 times while the third girl was stabbed a dozen times in the back.

To say that those murders were a shock to the town was an understatement. The police made an effort to search for the murderer. My parents began to irrationally fear that I would be killed next (my parents were extremely strict and overprotective of me when I was growing up—they were helicopter parents long before that became a hip trendy yuppie thing) and they were telling me not to go into this wooded shortcut I used to take when walking to the high school mainly because it shaved five minutes off my walk. (Never mind the fact that the murders took place two miles away from where I lived.) I secretly took that shortcut anyway because I was mentally in a dark place regarding the kids in school calling me “retarded” and having parents who were so strict that I used to secretly envy the kids whose parents used to give them very little attention and supervision. At the time I felt that the person would do me a big favor if he would kill me just like he killed those girls.

I never faced the killer myself (this blog would not even exist if I had). A few days after the bodies were found the police arrested a 16-year-old boy named Stuart L. Kreiner, who lived in the same neighborhood as the three girls. He was turned in by his own father, who discovered the evidence that his son was involved with the crime. Stuart Kreiner had also attended my high school the year before the murders. I never knew him mainly because he was in a grade ahead of me, which meant that he was a sophomore while I was a freshmen. On top of it, my high school had around 4,000 students at the time and he wasn’t a jock or involved in any activities nor was he the most popular guy on campus so it was easy for me to overlook him. I recently searched through my freshman yearbook looking for his photograph only to find that he was listed in a text-only list featuring “Sophomores Not Pictured.” (Apparently he was absent on Picture Day and made no effort to submit his photo to the yearbook at a later date.)

After the school year ended he transferred to Martin Spaulding High School, which was—and still is—the main Catholic high school in Glen Burnie. He had just started attending classes in his new school a month before the murders.

Stuart Kreiner’s arrest shocked many people who knew him because he didn’t look like a stereotypical murderer as depicted in the movies. He was a clean-cut quiet boy who shunned drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. He had never gotten into any kind of trouble with the police prior to the murders. He sung in a choir at the local Presbyterian church. He was involved in Little League a few years earlier but that was about it for extracurricular activities. According to accounts written at the time, he was so upright about adhering to his family’s strict and rigid rules that he became an outcast among his peers. The other kids used to call him “sissy,” “straight arrow,” and “weird.” The teasing he received was one of the reasons why he switched schools. (It was also said that his parents wanted him to receive a more Christian-centered education.) His ostracism by his peers was the reason why he used to frequently play with kids five or six years younger than him. One of his unidentified younger playmates told The Washington Post that Stuart told him/her that “the big kids played too rough.”

Why Stuart Kreiner murdered those girls remains a mystery to this day. The police found no evidence of the girls being tortured. Nor did they find any evidence that they were raped or sexually assaulted. There was no evidence that he planned those murders days or weeks before. It was like one day he was playing with those girls in the woods when, out of the blue, his mind snapped and he stabbed them to death. Or maybe he wasn’t even playing with those girls but, rather, playing with himself. I found this post on Facebook that had an interesting theory as to why he killed those girls.

I hadn’t been selling houses very long when this had taken place and the parents had left the area, leaving their vacant homes on the market. My office was near Hospital Dr. on Crain Hwy across the street from a 7/11. Many mornings I found I was getting coffee the same time a couple of detectives of AA Cty [Anne Arundel County Police] were. Having shown those homes I gave the story a lot of thought. There had been much in the newspaper about how strict the parents were and their strong ties to church – almost too strict it sounded to me. I developed a theory and related it to my new acquaintances. Their eyebrows shot up and they said we cannot confirm that but you have no idea how close you are to ‘what’ it is suspected happened. The young man was in a tent where he thought he had privacy. What is a young male just feeling his hormones not supposed to do? So thinking he had his privacy he had at it all by himself until 3 little girls wondered along and probably had no idea on what activity they stumbled. Being afraid of his father the lad thought his dad would ‘kill’ him…so he silenced anyone who would tell. ~~If my theory was correct – then dad should have been in jail right along side of his son. But the hypothisis as to “why” was never in the newspaper, only the question along with the facts about dad being very strict and active in church.

I still remember seeing newspaper photographs of the funeral for those three girls and seeing my classmate seated among the mourners. The three girls were buried together at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Glen Burnie. My classmate was out of school the week of the funeral and she may have taken the following week off as well but I don’t remember for sure. I remember she returned to school for a month or so then she stopped coming and I never saw her again. I later learned from the other students that the Brzeszkiewicz family decided to move away from Glen Burnie soon after the funeral. The Hogan family remained in Glen Burnie as they kept a close eye on the case in their effort to achieve justice for their daughters.

Stuart Kreiner was charged with murder. In October, 1978 (one year after the murders), he avoided trial when he pleaded guilty as part of a controversial plea-bargain where, instead of going to jail, he would be sent to Patuxent, the state facility offering a wide range of psychological treatment for prisoners deemed capable of rehabilitation. The doctors there were given leeway in determining when Kreiner would be deemed rehabilitated enough for release back into society.

There was outcry over this at the time as people feared that he could be released back on the streets after staying at Patuxent a year or two despite murdering three girls. It turned out that he was sentenced to life at Patuxent and he would not have been eligible for parole until 1990 at the earliest. Despite that, the case prompted a change in the state law so there hasn’t been a similar type of plea-bargain for murder since.

The murders soon receded from my mind as I focused on graduating from high school and getting the hell out of Glen Burnie as soon as possible. My life became better once I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park and I was able to meet people who never knew me as a child so they weren’t prone to calling me “retarded.” I also lived away from home so I wasn’t under my parents’ constant supervision and I had to quickly learn how to take care of myself because mom and dad weren’t going to do it for me.

It was during my college years that I learned about Stuart Kreiner’s ultimate fate. In July, 1982, nearly five years after the murders, Kreiner was found dead at Patuxent. He had hung himself with a bedsheet that was attached to the bars of his prison cell. He was 20 years old.

The reason why he committed suicide was just as mysterious as the reason why he killed those girls five years earlier. He left behind a note for his family but the contents of that note were never publicly disclosed.  Two years earlier Kriener was transferred to the prison area with the least security as a reward for good behavior. According to prison officials, Kreiner had shown no signs of depression, even as he attended mandatory group counseling sessions. Kreiner had never attempted suicide before just like he had never gotten into any trouble with the law before he murdered those girls. It was like his mind abruptly snapped the night he committed suicide just like it was as if his mind abruptly snapped the night he committed murder.

Kreiner’s suicide closed the chapter on what was the most brutal and bizarre crime that happened in Glen Burnie at the time. As the years went on, those murders receded in the background to be replaced in the public consciousness by other murders like the O.J. Simpson murder trial or JonBenét Ramsey’s murder or the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

I’ve always been surprised that the mainstream media hadn’t done one of those updates on this story unlike those umpteen updates they’ve done about JonBenét’s murder. I guess it’s because, unlike JonBenét, none of those three girls were ever child beauty pageant contestants and there’s the fact that JonBenét’s murder remains unsolved to this day. But there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the deaths of those three girls and the suicide of their murderer (regarding the motives involved) that documentary filmmakers could explore.

Nor has anyone done one of those Lifetime movie dramatizations (or even used it as the basis for one of the episodes of the many Law & Order series that NBC keeps on proliferating) where actors would play the roles of Stuart Kreiner, the three girls, and assorted neighbors and relatives as they reenact the murder, the funeral, the plea-bargain, and Kreiner’s last years at Patuxent. With so many questions about this case, I’d thought that some Hollywood producer would’ve glommed on that story and some TV network would’ve aired it in pursuit of high ratings.

I saw posts on that same Facebook group where people are talking about doing some kind of a candlelight vigil this October to commemorate the 40th anniversary. I don’t know if that will actually happen or not. After all, it’s been many years since it happened and the people involved have either grown older, moved away, or simply died. There are people now living in that neighborhood who simply weren’t there when the murders took place and don’t know anyone who were involved in that case.

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