The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on May 27, 1990 · 334
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The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland · 334

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Baltimore, Maryland
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Sunday, May 27, 1990
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334
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6 SUNDAY, MAY 27, 1 990 HOWARD COUNTY SUN Teacher's MUNSON Continued from Page 4 forward again. We have not stopped trying." In the city, the rumor on the street was that Nelson had been set up, recalls Goodwin. "It was just a rumor, one that we could never prove to be fact," Goodwin said. With their evidence falling apart, authorities prosecuted Watson for the 1973 armed robbery incident. Watson pleaded guilty and received a 1 5-year sentence in October 1975. Between his parole from prison in 1979 and the mid-1980s, Watson appeared to have steered clear of trouble with the law. Police records indicate no history of arrests. Then, in March of 1983, police traced the seven stolen cars to Watson's back-alley garage in East Baltimore. Did Munson just leave? Oliver Munson had gone Oliver Munson: His car, his disappearance. February 15, 1983: Oliver Wendell Munson purchases a 1973 Datsun 240Z after answering a classified advertisement in the newspaper. The sporty blue car was one which Munson, an automotive hobbyist, had always wanted. March 16, 1983: Dennis L. Watson, a Baltimore resident, is arrested in connection with an auto theft ring in the city. . .- May 21, 1983: Munson is told by Baltimore City police that the 1973 Datsun had been stolen by the suspected auto theft ring. He agrees to testify in an upcoming grand-theft auto case against Watson. Feb. 10, 1984: Munson missed only his fourth day of work in 15 years as a school teacher. The following day, a Saturday, he visited his mother on the Eastern Shore before returning to his Catonsville home on Sunday. Feb. 13, 1984: A neighbor sees Munson outside working on his 1980 Ford Pinto at 7:50 a.m. He appears to be changing the car battery and is able to get the car started; however, he does not arrive at his teaching job at the Ellicott City Middle School. Feb. 14, 1984: Munson's brother, James, becomes concerned and vis-1 its Oliver's house in the 600 block of Orpington Drive. James Munson then notifies Baltimore County police that his brother is missing. Feb. 16, 1984: The 1980 Ford Pinto belonging to Munson is found parked on Braeside Road, Catonsville, in the opposite direction of where Munson would have been heading to work. The right front tire is fiat, apparently due to a slow leak. The same day, the auto theft trial against Watson is postponed in Baltimore City due to Munson's disappearance. Feb. 27, 1984: A car that had been stolen from a Baltimore County home on the morning of Munson's disappearance was recovered at the edge of the city's Leakin Park. In the car were Munson's cap, two business receipts with the missing man's name and traces of unidentified blood. A small caliber shell casing was also found in the car. Feb. 28, 1984: City police searched Leakin Park without success. September 1984: Baltimore City police move forward with the auto theft case against Watson. A plea agreement handed Watson a 10-year sentence; he served five years before being paroled. May 28, 1985: At a Kent County civil court proceeding requested by the Munson family, Judge George B. Rasin declared Oliver Wendell Munson legally dead, the victim of "presumptive homicide." SAIL INTO SUMMER THE TOY CHEST 10194 BALTIMORE NATIONAL PIKE BETHANY 40 SHOPPING CENTER 461-9257 t t i troubling disappearance remains unsolved through some difficult times In the weeks before his disappearance. The news that his school was to be closed, with his colleagues dispersed throughout the school district, did not please him, and he spoke off-handedly to friends about leaving the area. His house, where he had abandoned most of his trademark woodworking projects in the weeks before his disappearance, was heavily damaged when some water pipes burst. He and his girlfriend split up, and he made casual remarks about going to faraway places like Hawaii and Las Vegas. But most of those comments weren't taken seriously by his friends and fellow teachers, who knew him as a light-hearted person with a flare for the dramatic. He spent the weekend before his disappearance on the Eastern Shore with his mother, whom he had visited monthly since the death of his father two years earli- INFLATABLE TUBES SWIM AIDS SQUIRT ANIMALS SAND TOYS ; ESTES ROCKETS ; , BUBBLOS GOGGLES SWIM MASKS LEAKY PIPES . . . SPLASH OUT PLUS LOTS MORE!!! er. A brother and a sister, whom Munson also was very close to, lived nearby. By all accounts, Oliver Munson did not fear for his safety in the days before his disappearance. On Monday morning, Feb. 13, 1984, three days before he was to testify in the Watson auto theft case, he got into his car at 7:50 a.m. to leave for work as usual. A neighbor saw him changing his car battery, and nothing seemed amiss. But Munson never arrived for work. Three days later, his rust-colored Pinto was found on Braeside Road in Baltimore County, less than three blocks from his home. His lunch bag and a stack of school papers were left untouched on the front seat. One front tire was flat, which led detectives to speculate that car trouble may have been the cause of his unexpected stop. But that was the only element out of place in what otherwise seemed to have started out as a normal day for Munson. The last news about Oliver Munson came two weeks after he was last seen. A car that had been reported stolen just hours before Munson's disappearance was found at the edge of the city's Leakin Park. In it were traces of blood, a cap owned by Munson, and two video rental receipts bear- ing the missing man's name. The car's rightful owner, a Baltimore County man, had found the items while cleaning the vehicle. In the process, however, any fingerprints that might have remained as clues were wiped clean, say Baltimore County police. City police searched the park the following day without success. Detectives speculated that the evidence indicated Oliver Munson was murdered and buried somewhere on park grounds. The grand theft auto case against Watson went forward in September of 1984 without Munson. A co-defendant, William Mays of Baltimore, agreed to testify against Watson In exchange for a suspended sentence. Mays at one point told police he was afraid for his life after receiving a threatening anonymous note telling him not to testify, police records show. Watson ended up THE PLANTINGS ALWAYS EASY . and economical at WHITTAKER'S FLOWERS NOW IT'S SWEETER THAN EVER WITH SAVINGS OF 20 OFF ON ROSES, PERENNIALS AND HANGING BASKETS JUST IN TIME FOR THAT MEMORIAL DAY GALA! ? " : - Hi' 12025 W. Friendship. Md. 1 AAA tfrt OPEN 8-6 7 A 988-9666 i ' ", .. ' ," " 11 'i '! ..I' m l i pleading guilty to the auto then charges and received a 10-year sentence. Mays never had to testify. He was paroled last September from the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. Watson did not respond to a certified letter from The Howard County Sun requesting an interview for this story. He remains in the Baltimore area, and is now 41. , Six years of questions ' Munson's friends have speculated for six years about what might have happened. The possibility of foul play due to Munson's innocent involvement with the auto theft ring brings a slim, unlikely ray of hope to the curious. Based on the past deaths and criminal events that surrounded the man Munson was to have testified against, another theory emerged: Was Munson moved from the area and given a new identity under a witness protection program? Thinking about that possibility has always given me some peace of mind," says Patrick Cisna. now an art teacher at Hammond High School and one of Munson's close friends. Another triend, Russ Mullaly of Ellicott City, recalls that Munson missed a rare day of work on the Friday before his disappearance. He had completed a series of woodworking projects weeks earlier and hadn't started any new ones. His relationship with his girlfriend broke off suddenly. "It's odd that he appeared to be tying up all these loose ends," Mullaly said. "There's an equal amount of facts that seem to support whatever theory you want to look at." The car found on the edge of Leakin Park, a notorious dumping ground for murder victims, seemed to be a neat ending to the Munson mystery, some say. Why, for example, had receipts bearing Munson's name appeared In the car? It Is almost too convenient, says Mullaly, as though someone wanted to set the scenario for murder clues. Police say that even with the discovery of a body, a positive identification may be impossible. Munson's health record was so good that he had no medical or r""ii i m v Rt. 144 DAYS A WEEK gim m 988-9254 ." a . t i in dental records, according to police. But Goodwin, the city detective who worked on the case, today offers no hope for those who entertain the new Identity theory. It is true, he admits, th at the man Munson was to testify against had been in the shadows surrounding the deaths of two other men slated to testify against him. But Watson's only convictions in 1984 included robbery and auto theft. "We never knew about the involvement with the Glenn case until much later," Goodwin said. "I talked to Munson a few times while we were working on the case, and there was never any hint of danger," Goodwin said. "He seemed relaxed with the situation and we had seen no reason to worry about his safety." The contents of the several-hundred page case file on Munson's disappearance does make Goodwin wonder, however. He wonders why anything happened to Munson. "Nobody deserves to die over a car-theft case," he said. For Munson's family, the past five years have brought more than just an air of mystery: they have also brought fear over how easily a person can disappear with no ex planation. "That day he disappeared was thick with fog, the kind you see in horror stories," said Oliver Munson's other brother, James. "Someone could have kidnapped him and taken him away without ever being seen." James Munson, who now lives in Dover. Del., says he has few by. The things that he has kept through the years have been questions and anger. "I'm not satisfied with the way things were handled. I want to know what happened to him, I want someone to say, 'This is what happened,' " James Munson said. The question still lingers "Have you heard anything new about Mr. Munson?" It is a question that Cisna, who still teaches many of Munson's former students, hears about three or four times a year. Cisna answers the students in a positive way, not only for their peace of mind but his own. "It's easier in my own mind, and for the kids, for me to say nothing terrible happened," Cisna said. "I say, 'He's not with us anymore, but he's safe somewhere.' " Noelle Helm, now a senior at Mount Hebron High School who was a student in Munson's sixth-grade class the year of his disappearance, still keeps a bowling towel given to her by the teacher. About a week before Munson turned up missing, he and another teacher had taken some of the students bowling. Heim says the group had a great time that night. . "He gave me the towel to take home and wash," Heim said. "I've held on to It ever since, but I don'l think I'll ever be giving it back tc him." A lot of rumors floated arounc the school after Munson dlsap peared. But years later, the Inevl - table conclusion Is "that the bac guys got Mm.-.she fld. , , , , ,

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