The partially clad body of a 22-year-old woman who was employed by a NASA contractor was found yesterday in a park in the Berwyn Heights area of Prince George's County. Authorities said the death appeared to be a homicide.
Maryland National Capital Park police identified the woman as Margaret Perkins. Friends said she had recently moved to College Park from Houston, where she had been studying at Rice University.
Perkins's body was found about 11 a.m. alongside a stream in Indian Creek Park, south of Berwyn Road. The park is about a mile from her apartment, and about a mile east of the College Park campus of the University of Maryland.
The woman was clad only in a shirt and sneakers, according to one of those who discovered her body. Her automobile was found nearby.
Police said they did not know the cause of Perkins's death, but said there were scrapes that could have resulted from a beating.
Park police Lt. Robert Hisamoto said the body was discovered at the foot of a steep incline, sloping toward the creek bed from about 10 feet above. The difficulty in negotiating the slope, he said, made it unlikely that anyone might choose to cross the creek at that point.
The woman's body was taken to the office of the Maryland state medical examiner in Baltimore, where an autopsy is scheduled for today.
Hisamoto said police had not determined any motive in the death and had not identified a suspect. He said investigators were proceeding on the theory that "she went out jogging, and someone opted for the opportunity to commit an assault and subsequent homicide."
As part of the investigation, he said, park police will contact neighboring jurisdictions for information on crimes of a similar nature.
On the night of March 31, a woman was killed and two others were also attacked within an hour on a bicycle path in Rosslyn.
The fatal stabbing of Ann Elizabeth Borghesani, 24, in Arlington was the first along a bike path in several years in the Washington area, but there have been four killings of joggers since 1981, and a series of nonfatal attacks in the past two.
Perkins was reported missing to police at 11 p.m. Saturday, Hisamoto said. Police at that time began a search that continued until 2 a.m.
A friend of Perkins's said the missing woman had said about 7 p.m. Saturday that she was going jogging and would return by dark. She never returned to her apartment.
A jogging and bicycle trail runs through the park along the stream, which is known in that area as Indian Creek. It is generally known as the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River.
The body was discovered yesterday by members of the Berwyn Heights Volunteer Fire Department, who were playing softball at a field in the park at the edge of the stream. A firefighters found the body while pursuing a ball into the creek.
A NASA spokesman said Perkins worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. She worked for a NASA contractor and was involved with computers, he said.
Berwyn Heights Mayor William Armistead described the town of 3,100 residents as "real quiet."
"It's very upsetting," Armistead said of the killing. "It's upsetting regardless of where it happens, but when it happens within the town it's that much more upsetting."