Laborer man charged with murder of 69-year-old woman at Baltimore church
A man has been arrested and charged with the brutal stabbing of a 69-year-old grandmother at her east Baltimore church last month, officials said.
Evelyn Player was found stabbed in a bathroom around 7:30 a.m. at Southern Baptist Church, an hour after she let contractors into the building for church renovations Nov. 16, Baltimore police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Manzie Smith Jr., 62, was arrested Dec. 1 and charged with first-degree murder, along with other counts, in Player’s death, the Baltimore Police Department announced Thursday. .
Smith was identified as the suspect based on DNA evidence collected at the scene, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at a news conference Thursday.
He was arrested the same day Player was laid to rest in a funeral ceremony, according to The Associated Press.
Smith was working at the church on the day of the murder as a laborer for a contractor, his attorney Warren Brown told the Baltimore Sun.
He said Smith had mental health issues and his client could not remember the day Player was killed.
Smith was ordered to be held without bond during a hearing in Baltimore District Court. His preliminary hearing is set for January 4, according to court records.
The murder disturbed the community and church members.
Governor Larry Hogan has offered a $100,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest of his killer.
“The murder of a 69-year-old grandmother inside a church in East Baltimore has shaken townspeople and community leaders alike,” Hogan said in a statement. “This heartbreaking violence is tearing the city apart. Enough is enough. We need immediate action.”
Harrison said Smith had a criminal past and his supervised parole ended in October. He said there was no evidence the attacker knew Player and the investigation was ongoing.
“As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, those who commit violent crimes in our city will be arrested and they will be held accountable,” Harrison said. “While we are all affected by all the murders, the fact that this one took place in a place of worship made it more shocking to the conscience.”
“In a holiday season filled with giving and gratitude, Ms. Player’s family was forced to endure Thanksgiving without their matriarch,” Mayor Brandon Scott said at the press conference. “Ms Player is what we in Baltimore call a ‘foot soldier.’ She loved her community, she loved her church, and she served her community with a passion.
A lawyer for Smith did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.