- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Firefighters in Northwest got an unsettling wake-up call yesterday morning when an elderly man with blood-splattered arms came to the station and told them he had just killed his family in a house a few blocks away.
The man, whom police later identified as Raymond Brashears, banged his fists on the outside door of the Engine Co. 11, in the 3300 block of 14th Street, until firefighters let him in just after 8 a.m.
After spending about 10 minutes in the bathroom, Mr. Brashears then "very calmly directed firefighters to a home about two blocks away, where an act of violence had occurred," said D.C. Fire department spokesman Alan Etter.
When officials entered the home in the 1300 block of Meridian Place, they found the severely beaten bodies of two middle-aged women in separate bedrooms. "They were obviously dead," Mr. Etter said. "They had been beaten with some kind of blunt instrument."
D.C. Police charged Mr. Brashears, 76, with two counts of first-degree murder while armed. The identities of the victims were still being determined late yesterday, according to Capt. Thomas McGuire of the violent crimes division of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Capt. McGuire said the victims are believed to be relatives who lived at the home with Mr. Brashears, but investigators had not determined how they were related to him. Early reports were that the women could either have been his wife and daughter or his sister and niece.
The street where they lived was blocked off for most of the day while investigators with the violent crimes division combed the scene of the apparent double murder. Neighbors and curious onlookers stood watch until late afternoon, when the bodies were taken out of the home and the yellow police tape was removed from the end of the street.
In conversation with a reporter for The Washington Times, one official said the crime scene was one of the most gruesome he had ever witnessed. Blood was splattered on the walls of the home, where apparently a baseball bat had been used to kill the women, he said.
Mr. Etter said dental records may be needed to make positive identifications.
Paramedics responding to the scene were offered time with "critical stress counselors" to help them cope with memories of the carnage they found when they entered the home.
Neighbors in the Columbia Heights community around Meridian Place yesterday recalled Mr. Brashears as a friendly man known to stroll the sidewalks around 14th Street, offering kind greetings to almost everyone he passed. Many were astounded at the news he had been taken into police custody.
"I'm shocked," said Bory, a high school student who lives on Mr. Brashears' block. "I saw him on the street all the time, and he always said hello."
The 17-year-old, who was off from school yesterday in recognition of Presidents' Day, said Mr. Brashears was an elderly black man who walked very slowly and always waved and said hello in Spanish, "because he knew that I speak Spanish."
Darryl Cowherd, a 32-year-resident of the neighborhood, said "this sort of crime is totally unusual in this neighborhood."
Mr. Cowherd said most of the crimes in the area are "turf crimes, like stabbings" related to drug dealing. Many of the homes on side streets off of 14th Street are owned by parents of adult children, some still living with them, he said.
At the nearby Giant supermarket in the 3400 block of 14th St. NW, employees said Mr. Brashears was a regular customer, always greeting people and often relating positive tales.
"Everyone in the store was upset when they heard it was him," said the supermarket's security guard, George St. John.
A cashier at the store who wished not to be identified said she couldn't believe Mr. Brashears, who wore glasses and was very friendly, had committed the killings. "He was old, he could barely see out of his right eye and his glasses were broken," the cashier said. "I can't picture him lifting up a baseball bat, let alone swinging it to hit someone."
The cashier added, however, that Mr. Brashears "wasn't mentally all there, and sometimes he wouldn't remember my name."
Rhonda Shafer, another cashier at the Giant, said that she and others knew Mr. Brashears as "Mr. Raymond," and that he had been coming into the store three or four times a day for the last five years.
"Mr. Raymond could not have killed those people," she said. "If he did, something else got inside him."

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