When Connie Southard graduated from T.C. Williams High School last year and wanted her own apartment, she selected the Holmes Run Park complex in Alexandria because "the price was good, it looked clean, and it had a lot of young singles."
Now, six months after moving in, a small dagger and a can of Mace have become a familiar part of her personal belongings. She no longer walks her dog by the creek behind here apartment, she no longer rides in te elevator if there's a man inside, she's afraid to do her laundry in the basement, and she has a friend sleep over to help her feel secure.
Southard, along with many others interviewed at the Holmes Run Park apartment complex on N. Morgan Street in Alexandria, is scared.
wo women who lived in the partment complex have been found dead within the past 11 days. Another woman resident has been missing for a month, and police are searching for her body. A fourth woman, who lives a short distance away, was found dead last August. And Alexandria police, so far, have no suspects.
Ironically, fear at Holmes Run Park, a community of brick midrise and garden apartments off Interstate Rte. 95 in western Alexandria, has brought the tenants together. Fear, in many instances, has led neighbor to seek out neighbor for the first time.
"I've met a lot of people since the panic started," said David E. Labell, 27, an unemployed computer systems analyst who lives at Holmes Run Park."They're scared, and that draws people together." He said he knew one neighbor before the recent murders. After the second body was found a week ago, he met six more nieghbors in one day.
Several women in the complex have asked others to check with them frequently, Labell said. He is afraid for the women who live there, he said - the building has too many unlocked doors, and "when the power fails the halls are completely dark," he said.
Kenneth Caton, who also lives at Holmes Run Park, said his fiance is "scared. She can't handle it . . . The other night (Sunday) when we had this storm and the electricity went off, she started crying . . . it's just like being in prison." They plan to move as soon as possible, he said.
Several residents met this week with Alexandria police community relations officers to determine what can be done to improve security. Some are trying to organize a tenants group to try to get security tightened.
Their suggestions include more lighting in the parking lot, placing locks on entrances to the buildings, and trimming or cutting some of the bushes in the area. More meetings between police and tenants are planned, a spokesman said.
Several attempts to reach Holmes Run Park management officials were unsuccessful yesterday.
Holmes Run Park is one of dozens of apartment and condominium complexes in western Alexandria along 1-95. The body of Gladys R. Bradley, 27, was found lying in a creek in a wooded area behind a nearby apartment complex on April 30. Preliminary autopsy reports show that she drowned, police said.
Bradley lived at 5420 N. Morgan St. Five days later, the body of Jeanette M. McClelland, 24, was found in a culvert near where Bradley's body was discovered McClelland lived at 5445 N. Morgan.
Last August, Aura Marina Gabor, 24, who lived in the same general area, was found strangled within a mile of where the other bodies were discovered.
A fourth woman, Aletha Byrd, 34, has been missing for a month. Byrd also lived a 5445 N. Morgan.
Alexandria police statistics show that the western section of the city, is not a particularly high-crime area, compared with other parts of Alexandria. Gabor's murder was the only one in that census tract last year, police said.
idents. Now, when Connie Proctor, a waitress at Phineas II in Springfield gets ready to go home she telephones her husband. Fletcher Proctor then leaves his second floor apartment at 5400 N. Morgan St., takes the stairway to a side door, and waits for his wife so he can escort her to the apartment.
"It's really scary," Mrs. Proctor said. "It makes you parenoid about everyone."
Fear has spread to apartment compexes surrounding Holmes Run Park. Jane Carafa, 23, lives at the Hamlet North apartment community. To her, "Holmes Run is not just another complex. It's two blocks down the street and is in my neighborhood. It's too close. We're all susceptible to the same thing."
Carafa and her husband have considered getting a handgun for her to use, and both are planning to take a karate course that is being offered at Hamlet next month. Her husband is taking the course so that she can have a man to practice with, she explained.
Carafa is working with police in trying "to force people out into the open - teaching them how to react, what to look for, how to keep their eyes and ears opens."