It was that same brash charisma that drew Marcum to Landeros in the first place and now has marked him as a fugitive in an international murder case.
The death last fall of the popular teacher shocked the quiet Northwest campus and the Bethesda neighborhood where Marcum lived. It must have been a burglary gone bad, her friends and police said at the time, especially when a District teenager was arrested driving Marcum’s missing sport-utility vehicle.
But then detectives learned more about Landeros, the egocentric charmer 12 years younger than Marcum. The two met about six years ago when she enrolled in a Spanish class he taught in Dupont Circle. He wrote poetry, studied yoga, day-traded stocks. Together, they practiced meditation before dawn, read books, went to concerts.
In a series of interviews by telephone from Mexico, Landeros denied that he killed Marcum but volunteered that he was the sole beneficiary of her half-million-dollar life insurance policy and that they invested money together. He described his relationship with Marcum as special, idiosyncratic and deep. For a brief period, he said, it turned into something more.
“We climbed that wall of romantic love at some point, but there was nothing behind the wall,” he said. “There was nothing that could progress in that direction.”
He said he was not in the United States in late October, when Marcum, 52, was slain. He answers e-mails from detectives, sometimes correcting their grammar, but declines to cross the border.
“I had nothing to do with the murder of Sue Marcum. That was not me,” Landeros said. He added: “They want me to just turn myself in, like some silly scapegoat.”
Police will not discuss specifics of their case against Landeros, other than to confirm they were able to obtain a DNA sample from him this year when he traveled to Texas.
They later obtained a warrant charging him with first-degree murder. Marcum’s body was found in the lower level of her home Oct. 25. An autopsy showed blunt force trauma and asphyxiation.
Montgomery County police have sought help from Interpol and authorities in Mexico to locate Landeros and bring him to the United States, said Officer Janelle Smith, a police spokeswoman.
“There is a process to be followed. That process takes time,” Smith said.
To Marcum’s friends, Landeros’s boasting and the flippancy with which he describes the case is infuriating.
“If he’s so innocent, why is he staying in Mexico?” said fellow accountant Don Williamson, who, like others, thinks Landeros took advantage of a woman who had hundreds of friends but lived alone. “She was fascinated by that man. She was a loving, beautiful, vulnerable woman.”