The family of Sue Wen Stottmeister buried her yesterday, four days after the Montgomery County, Md., mother of two was brutally beaten while jogging in a Rockville park. They have no details about what happened from tight-lipped county investigators.
Mrs. Stottmeister, 48, was the fourth woman slain in Rockville in the past 17 months. None of the killings has been solved.
In an emotional appeal before funeral services began yesterday afternoon at the Presbyterian Church of the Atonement in Silver Spring, Mrs. Stottmeister’s “church” family thanked both friends and strangers for acts of kindness after the attack Wednesday afternoon at the 11-mile marker on Rock Creek Park.
Mrs. Stottmeister died of cardiac arrest, police say, almost four hours after she was assaulted sometime between 2:15 and 3 p.m. along on a trail she jogged on nearly every day. She was found, still conscious, by officers from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police about 7 p.m., lying under trees and heavy underbrush some 50 feet off the trial. She died later that evening at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.
“Sue was an incredibly wonderful wife, mother and friend to many,” said Gil Gotiangco, a family friend who spoke to reporters on behalf of the Stottmeister family outside the church, as hundreds of mourners gathered to celebrate Mrs. Stottmeister’s life.
“We want to encourage everyone not to lose heart or faith,” Mr. Gotiangco added before he entered the church.
County police said yesterday they are following several leads in what they call “a very intense” investigation into Mrs. Stottmeister’s death. But they declined to discuss any details in the case, except to say that no suspects have been arrested and no arrest warrants have been filed.
“We certainly do not have a lack of suspects to look at,” Officer Derek Baliles, a county police spokesman, said yesterday.
However, police said they do not believe there is any link between Mrs. Stottmeister’s slaying and the three that preceded it. Officer Baliles said all four women were killed by different methods, at various times of day and at different locations.
The others killed were:
Gloria Clagett, 67, who was stabbed to death Aug. 29, 1999, in her home in Derwood. Police found no signs of forced entry.
Jean Jenkins, 75, who died of a heart attack sometime between Oct. 3 and 5 while bound in her house in Rockville. Police found no signs of forced entry.
Susan Street, 56, who was fatally shot Nov. 28 while sitting on the front porch of her home in Aspen Hill.
As police continued to comb through the area where Mrs. Stottmeister was found, her family and friends spent most of yesterday afternoon remembering the woman as a “spunky, brave and strong lady,” who always found time to help others.
“She was a happy woman who was full of energy,” the Rev. David Galletta told the mourners who packed the church’s sanctuary, lobby, chapel and basement to pay their last respects. Loud speakers were set up throughout the sanctuary and the church basement so mourners could listen to the service.
“She was always smiling,” the pastor said as Mrs. Stottmeister’s husband, Henry, and the couple’s two children, Stacy and Justin, sat in the front pew, wiping away tears. “We will not forget her. She was a fighter until the end.”
Police said Mrs. Stottmeister tried to fend off her assailant during the attack.
“She was conscious, but she wasn’t able to respond to officers’ questions,” Officer Baliles said. “The injuries she received in the assault were most likely aggravated by being exposed for two to three hours. It may have been too much for her.”
Officer Baliles also said police are now looking for anyone who may have unexplained scars or bruises on his or her face.
Mrs. Stottmeister was a stay-at-home mom before she became a teacher’s aide at Norbeck Montessori School in Rockville. She also taught kindergarten at the Presbyterian church on Georgia Avenue. In her free time, she enjoyed cooking, gardening and spending time with her family.
She enjoyed tennis and jogged regularly along the path where she was killed. Neighbors who attended the funeral said Mrs. Stottmeister knew everyone who used the trail and would stop during her runs to talk to people.
Mrs. Stottmeister’s younger brother, Marshall Lee, told mourners he believed his sister was happy the day she died because it was the first day of the Chinese new year. He called Mrs. Stottmeister “the life of the party,” whenever she was around others.
“She was tending to family traditions,” Mr. Lee said. “I know she was at her happiest that day.”
During his eulogy, Mr. Stottmeister called his wife of 18 years his “best friend” who always listened and cared about others.
“I trusted and relied on her, and she never let me down,” he said, holding back tears. “There will be a hole in my heart forever.”
Mrs. Stottmeister was buried at Parklawn Memorial Park, which abuts Rock Creek Park.