To the trainers, groomers and riders at Maryland's five horse racing tracks, Raymond M. Jerman Sr. was a familiar and welcome sight.
For at least five years, the 85-year-old vendor could be counted on to show up at their stables with his blue pickup truck stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, sodas and candy, and he was always willing to cash an out-of-towner's paycheck.
But yesterday, the pleasing rhythm of Jerman's daily rounds was interrupted when he failed to arrive at Laurel's Freestate Raceway in the early afternoon. A short while later, track employes learned that the produce man had died after being shot three times in the chest just outside the track's Rte. 1 entrance.
Jerman's body was discovered slumped over the front seat of his truck by a passing motorist at about 1 p.m., according to Howard County police spokesman Angus Park. The same motorist about 10 minutes earlier had seen what appeared to be a struggle inside a blue pickup truck parked on the right shoulder of northbound Rte. 1, Park said. A gold El Camino-type vehicle was stopped nearby.
Park said that the motorist went on his way but on the return trip noticed that the truck was still there. The motorist approached the truck where he found Jerman's body. Rescue workers administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene, but Jerman was later pronounced dead at Greater Laurel Beltsville Hospital about 1:30 p.m.
Police said they have no motive for the slaying, Park said, adding that officials had been unable so far to collect much information about Jerman except that he lived on Claffy Avenue in Gambrills, in Anne Arundel County, was well-known at Maryland tracks from Bowie to Baltimore and carried large amounts of cash.
Detectives are talking with members of Jerman's family to determine how much money he was carrying at the time of his death and whether any was missing, Park said.
Track employes interviewed yesterday said Jerman owned a feed store in addition to his vending business, was licensed as a vendor by the Maryland Racing Commission and kept a regular schedule for each of the five tracks he visited. Before the slaying, for example, Jerman had visited the Laurel Race Course and was on his way to Freestate.
But at least one employe noted that Jerman was more likely to trade horse stories than talk about himself. He would generally spend a few minutes at each barn hawking his wares and then walk with a slight limp on to the next.
"As far as getting personal, he wasn't that kind of person," said Stanford Stewart, a security officer at Freestate. "He just came in, sold what he could sell, cashed some checks -- strictly a businessman."
His businesslike demeanor, however, did not keep Jerman from being well-liked, employes said.
"Everyone knew him and he had a pleasant attitude," said an employe at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. "A lot of the trainers would buy carrots from him in big bags to feed the horses."
"You never heard anyone say a bad word about him," Stewart said. "He was like a saint to the horsemen because a lot of them are from out of town, and he saved them a lot of trouble by cashing their checks. He always did carry a lot of money, and it wasn't anything for him to cash a couple of $3,000 checks."