- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2000

BALTIMORE After four days as a hostage, Lynn Whitehead knew she needed to do something when her captor told her, "Today is the day you're going to die."

Miss Whitehead and boyfriend Andy McCord than devised a plan to escape from suspected killer Joseph C. Palczynski: They put a sedative in his iced tea and slipped out an apartment window as he dozed.

"He put us on an emotional roller coaster. We would think that he was ready to give in, but then he would say, 'I'm going to die here or I'll escape,' " Mr. McCord told the Associated Press yesterday. "We're pretty exhausted. We just thank God we're alive."

According to police and Mr. McCord, Miss Whitehead ground up two Xanax pills, a prescription drug that is commonly used to treat anxiety, and slipped them into Palczynski's iced tea. When he fell asleep in the evening, she and Mr. McCord jumped out a first-floor window and ran to police.

Police then stormed the apartment Tuesday night to rescue the couple's 12-year-old son, shooting Palczynski to death when he was startled awake. Police said he had three guns within reach.

The events of Tuesday evening were a dramatic ending not only to the ordeal of the three hostages, but also to a three-week spree of violence by Palczynski that left four persons dead.

Jim McGee, one of the police negotiators, said the negotiating team wanted to keep Palczynski alive but was most concerned about rescuing the boy. He also defended the couple's decision to leave the boy behind when they fled.

"They were being tortured, relentlessly tortured, for days on end," Mr. McGee said. "The negotiators, including myself on the phone, could hear them begging for their lives in the background."

Police Lt. Melvin Blizzard Jr. believes Palczynski had no intention of surrendering: "We felt the ultimate goal was suicide by cop."

During the standoff, Palczynski repeatedly demanded to see Miss Whitehead's daughter Tracy, his former girlfriend, but hostage negotiators didn't allow him to see or talk to her for fear it would make things worse, Mr. McGee said.

"The scenario that we predicted is that Tracy would get on the phone, he would then tell her, 'This is all your fault… . I want you to listen because I am about to blow your mother's brains out,' " he said.

Palczynski spoke frequently about Tracy during the standoff and threatened her mother's life several times, Mr. McCord said.

"He told me two days before, 'Andy, I don't have nothing against you and Brad. I'm going to have to kill Lynn because she's Tracy's mother," Mr. McCord said yesterday.

Palczynski was arrested March 4 on charges he beat Tracy Whitehead. After getting out on $7,500 bail the next day, he kidnapped Miss Whitehead, killed three persons who tried to help her and killed a passer-by while he tried to hijack another car, police said.

Miss Whitehead escaped from Palczynski's car March 6.

The unemployed electrician eluded police for almost two weeks, fleeing to Virginia and then forcing a man to drive him back to Baltimore at gunpoint.

On Friday night, Palczynski forced his way into the apartment of Miss Whitehead and held her hostage along with Mr. McCord and their son, Bradley McCord.

Mr. McCord said he and Bradley barricaded themselves in a bedroom while Palczynski fired about 50 rounds through the door. They escaped injury, however, and endured 100 tense hours with Palczynski in the apartment, which police described as "filthy dirty" with poor ventilation.

The standoff trapped many residents of the working-class neighborhood in their homes and transfixed the area. Palczynski, who referred to himself as "Colonel Palczynski," enjoyed seeing himself on TV, and even spoke to a reporter at a Baltimore station and left a message on another's answering machine. Lynn Whitehead said he would take the boy to windows "and have Brad shoot out the window with him."

Michael McCampbell, administrative judge for the District Court for Baltimore County, defended Commissioner Kim Gordon's decision to set Palczynski's bond at $7,500.

"Based on the information available to the commissioner at the time she conducted the hearing, the amount was appropriate," Mr. McCampbell said. "A lot of people are trying to make her a scapegoat, and I'm not going to let that happen."

Judge McCampbell refused to make a comparison about the bond for others with similar criminal records.

"Every case is individual. There are so many variables," he said.

Judge McCampbell acknowledged that a computer system with access to criminal records was not working at the time of the hearing, but added that police provided Commissioner Gordon with a copy of Palczynski's criminal record.

Judge McCampbell also said the court system won't make any changes in the bond-setting process as a result of this.

"I don't anticipate making any changes as a result of this incident, but we're always looking to better ourselves," he said.

"Judges really need to pay attention to the safety of the victims" during sentencings and bond hearings, said Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.

Palczynski, 31, exhibited the signs of a classic batterer who becomes most dangerous and violent when his victim leaves him, Miss Cohen said.

"When you have that kind of pattern of violent behavior, you like to take that into consideration because that can be predictive of future behavior," she said.

Mr. McGee said after the standoff was over: "I stood at Mr. Palczynski's body and I said a prayer for him. I didn't like him very much, but I prayed for his soul."

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