By Dan Morse and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 9:00 AM
D.C. police have charged an 18-year-old man with driving a Jeep Cherokee that belonged to the American University professor found slain inside her Montgomery County home Monday morning.
Deandrew Hamlin, 18, allegedly was driving the Jeep on Benning Road NE late Monday when the vehicle passed a license plate recognition sensor, D.C. police spokeswoman Istmania Bonilla said. The sensor transmitted a message to police dispatchers that the Jeep, which had been reported stolen, was in the area.
Police went to Benning Road and attempted to stop the Jeep, Bonilla said, then gave chase when Hamlin allegedly tried to drive away. The Jeep crashed into a crosswalk signpost at the intersection of New York Avenue and M Street NW. Hamlin, who police said lives in Northwest Washington, was taken into custody and charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle and felony fleeing.
Montgomery County police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said detectives want to speak to Hamlin about the slaying of Sue Ann Marcum, 52, who they believe may have been killed by someone intending to burglarize her home.
"We're viewing this as a significant piece of the case," Starks said Tuesday morning. "We want to know how he came into possession of the vehicle, and whether he played a role" in Marcum's death.
Marcum had trauma to her body, police said, but they declined to be more specific about her injuries. She was found in the lower level of her red brick house in the Glen Echo area by a friend who had become concerned and went to check on her.
Described by neighbors, colleagues and students as energetic and caring, Marcum had taught at AU's Kogod School of Business since 1999. Before that, she served as the tax director for the circus company Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey, a position she often referenced in the classroom.
"She used it as a talking point," said Lara Kline, an assistant dean at Kogod. "You would see students light up over accounting."
In a statement, school officials said Marcum "was a beloved member of the Kogod community and her sudden death is a tremendous loss."
Law enforcement sources said that the investigation was pointing toward a burglary gone bad in Marcum's home in the 6200 block of Massachusetts Avenue. Police said there were signs of a struggle.
Police issued an alert for Marcum's vehicle, described as a gold or tan 1999 Jeep Cherokee with Virginia tags YXE 1456.
After police pursued the Jeep and it crashed, Hamlin complained of neck and back pain, D.C. police said. He was taken to a hospital to be evaluated, but the injuries were not life-threatening.
Starks said Montgomery detectives brought the Jeep to a secure location where they could examine it for evidence that could help them decide whether to charge Hamlin in connection with Marcum's death.
Police said the professor had been in contact with at least one person late Sunday. "We believe she was alive into the evening hours," Starks said.
Theresa Barlow, one of Marcum's next-door neighbors, said Marcum moved into the neighborhood 11 months ago and soon invited her to a party of academics at her house - an indication of how friendly she was. "A lovely person," Barlow said Monday. "Smart and kind and charming."
Barlow said she was working on the second floor of her house late Monday morning when she received a call from Marcum's mother, who said her daughter called her daily. "She said she hadn't heard from Sue this morning," Barlow said.
Barlow told Marcum's mother she would check on the professor. She walked downstairs about 11:30 a.m. After opening her front door, she saw police cars, detectives and yellow crime-scene tape across Marcum's front lawn.
Barlow didn't know what to tell Marcum's mother, so she handed the phone to an officer.
"I've got her mother on the phone, and I don't know what to tell her," Barlow remembered telling the officer, who took the phone, walked away and talked to the victim's mother.
Barlow said she had lived in the neighborhood since 1973 and had never been burglarized or robbed. She said she had felt safe before Monday.
"But this really rocks you. . . . I don't feel safe here now," she said.
Linda Bellamy was visiting Marcum's other next-door neighbor. She said she saw a Jeep that looked like Marcum's go by between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Monday.
Bellamy, who lives in Tennessee and was in town visiting family, said she looked out the front window to see the Jeep pass by. Bellamy herself has owned a Jeep in the past.
"I thought maybe that's the lady next door," she said. "Once you're a Jeep person, you seem to notice Jeeps."
Bellamy said she didn't give much thought to the passing vehicle until detectives came to question her a short time later.
Marcum served as director of of the master of science in accounting program at American. She also was the faculty adviser to the Kogod Accounting Club.
Subomi Johnson, a student who is president of the club, said Marcum's service to students went beyond the classroom. He remembered her asking him about his family in Nigeria.
"She was more than just a professor at the school," he said. "She was just like a mom."