Ocean City, Md., had its first murder in nine years this week. As if that weren't enough, the subsequent investigation uncovered a large cache of drugs, which are a much more persistent problem for the resort city.
Police said they found $55,000 in cash and plastic bags filled with 30 pounds of marijuana, a pound of cocaine plus a quantity of the hallucinogen PCP near the scene of the slaying and at the victim's home. Police added it may be the largest seizure they ever made in a drug case. The street value of the drugs was placed at from $50,000 to $150,000.
Police said the stabbing of Richard Wayne Hnida, 29, of Millersville, Md., occured Sunday on the lawn of an efficiency apartment complex. John Jeffrey Hall, 29, also of Millersville, has been charged with murder and drug violations, police said. He is being held at the Worcester County jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.
The two men, both unemployed, were roommates in Millerville and apparently had known each other for years, according to Maj.Raymond Donvan, Ocean City's deputy police chief. They had gone to the beach for the weekend.
"There was an argument anda fight between the men" prior to the stabling, Donovan said.
"No one likes this kind of thing to ocur. Murder is an ugly thing," Donovan said. "It was a case of people who came here from another town . . ."
That is precisely the problem as far as drugs are concerned in Ocean City, according to authorities.
While Donovan said he believes his force "probably makes as many drug arrests down here as any agency in Maryland," state police narcotics specialists say the scope of the drug traffic is difficult to determine.
"Unfortunately we're unable to pin-print the size of it, because the area is so transient," said Lt. Frank Mazzone of the State Police narcotics bureau in Baltimore.
Frequently, Mazzone said, "as a result of a lawful arrest, say for a disorderly or someone not wearing a top on the boardwalk, police search a person and come up with some violation of drugs."
City Council President Newt Cropper, who owns the Ocean City Paint Store, discounted the newly uncovered cache as a sign that drug traffic is increasing at the beach resort.
"I don't think there are as many drugs today in Ocean City as five years ago, at least according to the information supplied the City Council," Cropper said. "I listen to the police calls: I ride along on some of them. I'm a fireman myself and we all have monitors."
Cropper noted that in recent years Mayor Harry Kelly and the City Council have been stressing the family-style image of their city. "We don't feel that our town is running drugs. You can't have a good market in an area that is family-oriented."
Besides, he added, "you have to play the percentages." For three months of the year, Ocean City grows from fewer than 7,000 residents to as many as 400,000. "In the summer months, we're the second largest city in the state of Maryland. People look to us as the safest city for three months of the year.
"We didn't like the murder," said Cropper. "But it hasn't hurt this city."