Cops: Fa­ther killed son, self

Po­lice say ap­par­ent mur­der-sui­cide in Bel Air ‘metic­u­lously’ planned be­fore friend’s 911 call

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By James Whit­low

A38-year-old man who ap­par­ently shot and killed his 3-yearold son be­fore killing him­self Thurs­day in their Bel Air home care­fully planned out the in­ci­dent, po­lice said.

The Har­ford County Sher­iff’s Of­fice is con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the ap­par­ent mur­der-sui­cide that left Ja­son Dou­glas DeWitt and his son, Grayson DeWitt, dead.

Po­lice were called to the house in the 600 block of High Plain Drive, shortly be­fore 6 p.m. Thurs­day af­ter a friend of DeWitt’s called 911, in­di­cat­ing DeWitt might be sui­ci­dal.

Har­ford Sher­iff Jef­frey Gahler said the sit­u­a­tion was or­ches­trated enough that in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve that the fa­ther and son al­ready were dead by the time deputies ar­rived at the house.

“I think that all indi­ca­tions at this point are … that the sus­pect had placed things in place so metic­u­lously that he had com­mit­ted this act be­fore the friend was able to call 911,” Gahler said. “Be­fore deputies ar­rived on the scene, it is most likely both sub­jects were de­ceased.”

Gahler said DeWitt’s friend who call 911 told dis­patch­ers DeWitt had dropped a box at the friend’s house ear­lier that day, ask­ing him to hold onto it for safe­keep­ing.

Just be­fore 6 p.m., DeWitt called the friend and told him to open it. In­side were ob­jects and notes sug­gest­ing he planned to harm him­self and pos­si­bly oth­ers, Gahler said.

When deputies ar­rived at DeWitt’s house to check on him, no­body an­swered, he said. Deputies en­tered the home and found a locked door on the sec­ond floor with a note on it.

The note said there were ex­plo­sives in the home, so the team re­treated and called for ad­di­tional backup, the sher­iff said.

No ex­plo­sives were found in the house, Gahler said.

Po­lice blew open the win­dow to the room with foam pro­jec­tiles and saw that it was not rigged to ex­plode, he said.

A few hours later, af­ter re­peat­edly try­ing to con­tact the res­i­dents, deputies en­tered the room and found DeWitt and his son dead from gun­shot wounds, Gahler said.

“You have to think men­tal health has to be a fac­tor here for some­one to do some­thing so hor­ren­dous,” Gahler said.

Gahler said the sher­iff’s of­fice had not re­sponded to that house be­fore, and DeWitt was not on their radar be­fore Thurs­day. It was a rare, ir­reg­u­lar sit­u­a­tion, the mo­tive for which re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I do not think that we are ever go­ing to have an an­swer to why be­cause you can­not make sense of some­thing so senseless,” he said.

The boy’s mother, who lived at the house, was not at home dur­ing the in­ci­dent, Gahler said. While she was not phys­i­cally harmed, the sher­iff ex­pressed con­cern about her men­tal well­be­ing.

“What mother could be al­right, for the rest of her life, mov­ing for­ward af­ter the loss her 3-year-old?” the sher­iff said. “I can’t imag­ine that sense of loss.”

Fri­day morn­ing, the street was quiet. In front of DeWitt’s home, a stuffed an­i­mal leaned against the home’s mail­box in view of a shat­tered win­dow on the sec­ond floor. Spent shell cas­ings from the foam rounds were strewn on the grass and side­walk.

Neigh­bors re­mem­bered DeWitt as a quiet man who mostly kept to him­self and showed no in­cli­na­tion to­ward the kind of vi­o­lence that oc­curred Thurs­day

Tae Park, DeWitt’s next-door neigh­bor, said he did not see DeWitt out of the house very of­ten.

DeWitt was a drum teacher who worked from home, Park said. He heard no gun­shots be­fore or af­ter the sher­iff’s deputies de­scended on the street.

The deputies asked Park to move to the house next door as a safety pre­cau­tion, he said. He heard deputies call­ing DeWitt’s name, ask­ing him to come to the front door. They got no re­sponse, Park re­called.

“I am as­sum­ing the gun­shot went off be­fore the po­lice came,” he said.

Only a week be­fore their deaths, Park saw DeWitt and his son Grayson play­ing out­side.

Andy Wentsel was friends with the fam­ily and their other next-door neigh­bor. Though he de­scribed DeWitt as in­tro­verted, he had oc­ca­sion to speak with him when their chil­dren played in the back­yard, or when Grayson cel­e­brated his third birth­day this past sum­mer. Wentsel’s daugh­ter is 5 years old.

The two cracked “dad jokes” and talked about fix­ing and tin­ker­ing with things, he said. At no point, Wentsel said, did he ever ex­pect some­thing like Thurs­day’s events.

“I have been go­ing over in my mind ev­ery time I talked to him be­cause I thought, ‘How do you miss some­thing like that?’ ” Wentsel said.

Mark Bowl­ing, who lives on High Plains Drive, said he al­most never saw DeWitt on the street. The com­mu­nity is small, and most res­i­dents know each other in a neigh­borly way, but DeWitt was rarely out­side.

Bowl­ing said he never thought an event like this would take place on the quiet street.

“It’s hard be­cause he killed him,” Bowl­ing said.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion is asked to call the Har­ford County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions Divi­sion at 410-836-5442.

If you or some­one you know is suf­fer­ing with a men­tal health is­sue or thoughts of sui­cide, call the The Klein Fam­ily Har­ford Cri­sis Cen­ter at 800-NEXTSTEP or 410-874-0711, the Na­tional Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Hot­line at 800-273-8255 or the Mary­land Cri­sis Hot­line is 800-422-0009.

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