By Dan Morse
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; B1
An American University accounting professor was found slain inside her Montgomery County home Monday morning, and detectives think she might have been killed by a burglar, according to police officials and law enforcement sources.
The professor, Sue Ann Marcum, 52, 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, as of Monday evening, 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 were still looking for Marcum's vehicle Monday night. They described it as a gold or tan 1999 Jeep Cherokee with Virginia tags YXE 1456.
Marcum was in contact with at least one person late Sunday. "We believe she was alive into the evening hours," said Capt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery County police spokesman.
Theresa Barlow, one of Marcum's next-door neighbors, said Marcum moved in 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.
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."