The story -- how women commit suicide by leaping off Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge -- fascinated reporter Fran Kryzwicki like few other assignments at the Annapolis Evening Capital.
The banner story for the paper in May 1979 vividly told how the leapers "may perceive the act of jumping into the water as a singular swallowing into a watery grave."
Friday at 3 a.m. the reporter's white 1978 Honda Civic was discovered midway on the span, its lights on and its motor running, 160 feet above the bay.
The Bay Bridge police yesterday listed the 25-year-old woman as an "apparent suicide" and said they suspect she had followed the course of the woman she had written about.
Friends and newspaper colleagues said they, too, have little doubt that Kryzwicki took her own life.
"She never felt she was good enough," recalled fellow reporter Elizabeth George. "She once told me, 'I'm just a shell of a person. I don't know who the real Fran Kryzywicki is or ever is there is one.'"
George and other friends yesterday describe kryzwicki as a talented writer and a warm friend who was tormented by doubts about herself and her abilities.
A 1976 graduate of the University of California at Berkely, Kryzwicki had worked for the Delaware State News in Dover and at the Annapolis paper before joining The Daily Press in Newport News, Va. in October 1979.
Praise from editors and other reporters could not dispel her conviction that she was not doing a good job on the paper's Williamsburg education beat.
David Allen a Daily Press reporter remembered telling Kryzwicki that a writing specialist for the paper had singled out her writing as accomplished.
"She just shrugged her shoulders and said something like, 'oh he doesn't know that he's talking about,'" Allen remembered.
Allen and George agreed that Kryzwicki had been on the verge of killing herself on at least three previous occasions.
Just two weeks ago George discovered that Kryzwicki had taken a large number of sleeping pills. She took Kryzwicki to a hospital where her stomach was pumped out.
On another occasion several months ago Kryzwicki attempted to slash one of her wrists, but could not force herself to complete the act. she then drove to a nearby railroad track and waited for a train to throw herself in front of. But she could not bring herself to do that either, George said.
"After that she said, "That was so stupid of me. I'll straighten myself out now, and someday I'll write a book about it," George recalled.
Kryzwicki never escaped the bonds of her self-doubt. Colleagues recalled that she seemed at time to be obsessed with death. The three stories she had covered that she talked about the most, according to Allen and George, were the arrival of the jonestown, guyana, mass suicide victims at Dover Air Force base in 1978, a Maryland car crash that killed 10 teenagers, and the bridge suicide article.
"It was obvious to all of us working with her earlier this spring that she wasn't doing well," Allen said. "She was having serious problems she just couldn't talk about."
Kryzwicki did not show up for work last Wednesday. She phoned another Daily Press reporter in the middle of the day and told him she was in Richmond and feeling confused. She wanted to get away, she said. The reporter persuaded her to return to Williamsburg, and that evening George Kryzwicki, and the other reporter played cards and watched a baseball game in TV.George said that Kryzwicki seemed happy.
However, kryzwicki failed to report to work on Thursday morning also.
"I think she wanted to do this for a long time, but she felt she had to leave Williamsburg to do it. That's why she drove up to the bridge," Allen said.
"I'd like to hear of some sort of miracle and find out she's still alive," George said. "But I know that she jumped off that bridge. She was a troubled person, but she was wonderful too. everywhere she went she left friends, friends who really cared for her."
The Coast Guard searched for her body Friday before abandoning the effort. Bridge police speculated it may have been swept away by the swift currents under the span.