Victim's family still seeks finality a year after killing at church

A year has passed since a man apparently upset at the workers running the food pantry at an Ellicott City church gunned down a minister and an office worker, police say, before taking his own life.

St. Peter's Episcopal Church marked the anniversary of the deaths of the Rev. Marguerite Mary Kohn and Brenda Brewington over the weekend with a gathering the Rev. Thomas Slawson described as "a celebration of life."

"Pretty good participation from representatives from the community," said Slawson, the church vicar. "It is both a way of remembering and celebrating."

As the church moves on, members of one victim's family say they cannot. Suspect Douglas Franklin Jones is dead, and the facts of the case are not in dispute. But the investigation remains open.

"It's been frustrating that it's taken this long," said Frank Kohn, brother of Marguerite Mary Kohn.

The women were attacked on May 3, 2012. Brewington, 59, died at the scene; Kohn survived several days before dying at a hospital.

Jones was found across the church parking lot in the woods near the 3600 block of Rogers Ave., dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say the gun was registered to Jones.

Howard County police told The Baltimore Sun they could not release the investigation files while the case remains open. It is still open while detectives wait for state police to complete a ballistics test.

Kohn's family was able to get her personal items and clothing last week. Police had told the family they would not release those items until the case was closed. But after Florrie Kohn, Frank's wife, contacted the state's attorney's office, they arrived in the mail — still in evidence bags.

The gun test has been held up by a backlog in the state police ballistics lab. An agency spokeswoman said the lab prioritizes active cases with court dates pending over those, such as the Ellicott City shootings, that are not scheduled for court.

State police said they have 440 firearm cases awaiting ballistics testing.

"One case can take a few days to several weeks, depending on the complexities," said state police spokeswoman Elena Russo.

She said two full-time forensic scientists are doing the work of five. Two additional employees were hired in 2011 but are still training. A fifth position remains vacant.

State police will perform tests when local jurisdictions do not. Baltimore City and county, for example, perform their own.

Howard County police generally request ballistics tests in every gun crime where evidence is recovered, spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

Frank Kohn commended the county Police Department for conducting a thorough investigation and for being open with family members about the status of the case. But he said the time it has taken is "something I would have never expected. Obviously the evidence is there with a level of certainty."

While the family works to recover, so has the church community.

"Healing is a process," said Slawson. "We're still here and thriving."

The church refurbished its chapel in January and rededicated it to Kohn. Slawson said the congregation is planning a similar event honoring Brewington at the church preschool. Brewington began working with 4-year-olds at St. Peter's in 2004. Kohn joined St. Peter's as associate rector in October 2003 and had served as co-rector since 2009.

"It's gotten easier," Frank Kohn said. "The immediate shock has passed, but there's all these little events and little things that pop up at unexpected times that trigger memories."

Since his sister's death, he said, he has learned how much she meant to the community.

"I have met so many people who were her friends," he said. "I have learned a tremendous amount about my sister's life that I really didn't know about."

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