Montgomery County police trying to find the owner of an apparently abandoned car discovered a 67-year-old woman dead inside her ransacked, blood-spattered Derwood home yesterday morning, authorities said.
The woman, Gloria Elizabeth Clagett, a widow who lived alone in the 6900 block of Muncaster Mill Road, was found shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday "scrunched" on the bedroom floor on the upper level of her split-level home. Police refused to disclose how the woman died. Her body was taken to the medical examiner's office in Baltimore for an autopsy.
Ann Evans, Montgomery County police spokeswoman, said it appeared there had been "some type of struggle." But she said that "because of the manner of death, [authorities] don't want to say how she died. But blood was definitely on the scene."
Evans said that Clagett "lived alone. Because of that now we have to backtrack who was the last person to see her."
Police went to the house after Scott Taylor, the pastor of Good News Baptist Church in the 17700 block of Muncaster Road, asked them to investigate a blue 1994 Oldsmobile that had been parked at the church since sometime Wednesday.
Taylor said that the car was not at the church on Tuesday but was parked in an inconvenient spot near the church on Wednesday night when he arrived for a church service.
Taylor said that he did not recognize the car and that although cars are sometimes left at the church overnight by neighbors, they are usually gone within a day or two.
Police traced the car to Clagett, who lived about four blocks away, and when they went to her home to talk to her, they found the body.
A police source said that the door to the house was open when officers arrived. A white van, which neighbors said they did not recognize, was parked near Clagett's home and a house next door, which is vacant.
Tu Nguyen, who said he came to pick up one of Clagett's neighbors about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, said he saw a white van parked near the woman's house. "I noticed a white van right there, but we didn't see a car," he said, adding that he had never seen the van parked there before.
A police source said "blood was all over" the house. The source suggested that whoever attacked Clagett "took her car and dumped it."
Taylor said that Clagett did not attend his church and that he was "completely and totally" without any information about why the car might have been parked there.
Evans said police are investigating whether the car might have broken down and whether Clagett had parked it at the church. She said that Clagett had not reported the car stolen.
Yesterday, a newspaper lay untouched in a drainage ditch in the home's expansive yard. From the outside, nothing appeared amiss.
Most neighbors declined to talk about the incident. "It's a relatively quiet area. People would say . . . 'You're kidding me,' " when told about the apparent killing, Evans said.
Land records show that Gloria Clagett and her husband, Clinton R. Clagett, purchased the home new in 1966. Clinton Clagett died in 1994.
Montgomery County police said the woman had at least two children, and that a son and daughter had been told of their mother's death. Evans said she did not know when family members last heard from Clagett or when she was last seen.
Neither of the children could be reached for comment last night.
Staff writer Steven Ginsberg contributed to this report.