Mother Killed In Md. Home

By Ann E. Marimow and Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 2, 2007

A Burtonsville woman was found slain inside her home early yesterday, and police arrested her estranged husband last night after a frantic search for the man and the couple's three young children that ended in a brief car chase.

Montgomery County police issued an Amber Alert for the children -- ages 4 to 8 -- of Chidiebere Omenihu Ochulo after finding her dead inside her two-story townhouse on a quiet cul-de-sac. Neighbors said the children's father, Kelechi Charles Emeruwa, was estranged from Ochulo. Court filings show he was the subject of several domestic violence allegations.

About 6:15 p.m., police got a tip from someone who saw a blue Honda Civic being driven erratically on Georgia Avenue near Prince Philip Drive, in the Olney area of Montgomery. When officers tried to stop the car, which matched their description of Emeruwa's car, it evaded them and a pursuit began. Police said the car rammed several police cruisers and came to rest after hitting one on a nearby dead-end street. Police arrested Emeruwa, 41, and said last night that they will charge him with first-degree murder.

"It was not that long. It may just have been a couple of minutes, but it seemed like an eternity," Lt. Eric Burnett, a Montgomery police spokesman, said of the chase.

The children were inside the car and sustained no physical injury, Burnett said. He said the children would be evaluated by counselors.

"Social Services will speak to them," he said. "We don't know what they've seen."

Ochulo, a 36-year-old nurse, was stabbed in her townhouse in the 4200 block of Dunwood Terrace, said an official familiar with the investigation.

From 2003 to 2005, Ochulo filed at least three domestic violence claims against Emeruwa in Prince George's County District Court, according to summaries of the filings. Summaries of court records also show that Emeruwa was charged twice in drunken driving incidents in Montgomery County in November.

Because the courts were closed yesterday for the New Year's Day holiday, the outcome of the cases could not be determined.

In 2006, nearly half of the 20 homicides in the county were domestic incidents.

Lawrence Hill, a Bowie lawyer, represented Emeruwa last year in a second-degree assault case in which Ochulo alleged that her husband had hit her in the face. Hill said that when the case went to court two months ago, Ochulo did not appear and the charge was dismissed.

"I don't know anything about what may have occurred in the last 24 hours," said Hill, who said he had not spoken with Emeruwa since November. "He was always respectful and courteous, and nothing I saw in our conversations concerned me."

Hill said that Emeruwa worked for a company that installs flooring and that Emeruwa had regular contact with his three children during the time Hill represented him.

At Dunwood Terrace yesterday, yellow police tape surrounded the small front yard of Ochulo's townhouse. Along the wooden fencing behind the house, a slat with the handle to the gate was partially ripped off.

Ron Mandel, a neighbor, said that Ochulo and her children moved to the development in the summer and that he had seen Ochulo with the children -- ages 4, 6 and 8 -- at the community's playground. The two oldest are students at Burtonsville Elementary School.

Neighbor Steve Lerer, who was interviewed by police at 3:30 a.m. yesterday, shortly after they found the body, described the children as "well-behaved and cute." In the 10 years Lerer has lived in the development, he said, "we've had nothing like this."

A third neighbor said she saw Ochulo about three weeks ago at 1 a.m. screaming at a man who then got into a car and drove off. The woman, who declined to give her name, said that she did not know if the man involved was Ochulo's husband but that she had seen him on previous occasions with Ochulo.

Staff researcher Karl Evanzz and staff writers Ernesto LondoƱo and Alec MacGillis contributed to this report.

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