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Woman posts three billboards inside Baltimore asking: Who killed my sister?

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/9/2019 Tom Jackman

a close up of a sign: One of three billboards commissioned by Jennifer LeCornu Carrieri, looking for leads in the 1996 homicide of her twin sister Jody LeCornu in Towson, Md., is located on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore.
(Jennifer LeCornu Carrieri)

One of three billboards commissioned by Jennifer LeCornu Carrieri, looking for leads in the 1996 homicide of her twin sister Jody LeCornu in Towson, Md., is located on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore. (Jennifer LeCornu Carrieri)
© Jenny LeCornu Carrieri/Jenny LeCornu Carrieri

Someone knows why Jody LeCornu was sitting in her white Honda Civic, making phone calls from an empty shopping center parking lot in Towson, Md., at 3:40 a.m. on a cold Saturday in early March 1996. Someone knows who drove up to that car, spoke to LeCornu, and then fired one shot from behind her, the bullet smashing the left rear passenger window, slicing through the driver’s seat of LeCornu’s Civic and then into her back. And after she drove across the street to another shopping center on York Road, someone knows the identity of the stocky man who approached her car again as it idled against a curb, reached in and pulled something out, then drove away in a white BMW.

LeCornu’s twin sister, Jennifer LeCornu Carrieri, hasn’t given up on finding that crucial witness. And on the anniversary of her sister’s death, Carrieri paid for three large billboards in the heart of Baltimore, and has posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jody’s killer. “FIND MY KILLER” the billboards implore, above a smiling photo of LeCornu.

The crime occurred in Baltimore County, just north of the city limits, and Carrieri originally commissioned a billboard on York Road not far from the scene. But in recent weeks, she placed the billboards on Pulaski Avenue, Greenmount Avenue and South Hanover Street in the heart of Baltimore City, in hope of reaching someone who knows who fired the fatal shot into her 23-year-old sister.

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For years after the unsolved shooting occurred on March 2, 1996, the women’s father, an assistant prosecutor in Anne Arundel County named John LeCornu, handled the family’s contact with Baltimore County Police. But he became ill and died in 2007, Carrieri said. “All of a sudden, one day,” she said, “I had a backbone.”

So Carrieri became the one who kept in touch with investigators on the case, including Detective Carroll Bollinger, the lead homicide detective since the shooting happened. Carrieri reached out to news outlets, websites, crime shows, magazines, podcasts — anyone who would spread word of the case just a bit farther. The idea for the billboards came after Carrieri saw the powerful film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” about a mother seeking justice for her murdered daughter.

Carrieri wanted to hire a private investigator to take a look at the police case files and see what else might be done. But because the case is still open, Baltimore County refused to release the files. Carrieri filed a lawsuit seeking access to the case but ultimately reached a confidential settlement that did not result in the files being released. Maryland law allows law enforcement agencies to withhold investigative files indefinitely, though they also have the discretion to release files.

Joann “Jody” LeCornu grew up in Annapolis, graduated from St. Mary’s High School, and in 1996 was a student at Towson State University who also worked part-time at a bank in Hunt Valley, Md. Though the shooting happened in the middle of the night, it’s not devoid of clues. Police know that LeCornu spent the evening of March 1 drinking at the Mount Washington Tavern in Baltimore, about 3.5 miles from York Road in the Towson area. A regular at the bar, LeCornu stayed until closing time, then drove a bar employee home and stopped at a liquor store for beer, police have said.

By about 3:30 a.m., LeCornu was parked in what was then called the Drumcastle Shopping Center, in the 6400 block of York Road, police said. Phone records show that LeCornu made several calls around that time, including to the Mount Washington Tavern and to a friend. A light snow was falling.

Despite the late hour, at least one witness told police they saw a white BMW pull up near LeCornu’s Civic. The other driver was described as a stocky black male wearing a drab or green-colored Army-style coat. “There was some type of interaction between the suspect and Ms. LeCornu,” said Baltimore County Cpl. Shawn Vinson, the head police spokesman. “Then a shot was heard.”

It was about 3:40 a.m. Shot once in the back, LeCornu pulled out of the Drumcastle lot (now a government center), drove across York Road into the York Road Plaza, and circled the parking lot there before coming to a stop in front of a Giant grocery store. Carrieri said multiple witnesses saw the BMW pull alongside LeCornu’s Civic, the stocky man get out of the BMW and walk over to the Civic, where he reached inside and pulled something out. LeCornu’s purse was not found, Carrieri said.

Carrieri was living in California at the time but in constant contact with her twin, running up huge phone bills. “When she died, everything just went black,” Carrieri said. “Numb. I was just so numb for a long time.”

Carrieri soon returned to Annapolis, got married and started a family. But her sister’s death gnawed at her, and her interactions with Baltimore County Police left her frustrated. She paid $20,000 to hire a lawyer to sue the police for their files. She launched a website. She helped increase the reward fund from $32,000 to $100,000. She paid for a billboard on York Road just south of Towson, and now the three billboards in central Baltimore. She spoke to anyone, even prison inmates, who might have a lead.

Her personal life suffered, Carrieri said, but “I didn’t care. I’m going to find her killer. I’ve become very obsessed with her case.”

Vinson said that police have never had enough information to identify the shooter, and “we welcome any help from the public. We’re wondering if people are talking about it. As time goes on, people tend to relax and may talk about it a little more. We’re hoping a relative or maybe a person in jail may have heard something.”

Anyone with information about the killing of Jody LeCornu can call Baltimore County Police at 410-887-2222, Maryland’s Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-756-2587 [866-7LOCKUP], or submit information through its website, www.metrocrimestoppers.org.

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