ELLICOTT CITY, Md. - The suspect in the New Year’s Day murder of a 16-year-old girl in Ellicott City has died at Shock Trauma from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials announced Tuesday afternoon.
The suspect has been identified by police as 15-year-old Sean Crizer of Ellicott City. Investigators say he shot 16-year-old Charlotte Zaremba inside her Ellicott City bedroom on New Year’s Day at around 2 a.m. Police also say he shot and injured Zaremba's mother, Suzanne.
Detectives say they believe Crizer burglarized at least two homes in the same neighborhood in the weeks before the shooting -- one on Alice Avenue and another on Marybeth Way.
According to police, the New Year’s Day murder took place after Charlotte’s parents picked her up from a party. A short time after arriving home, her mother heard a scuffle from inside Charlotte’s room.
“She entered the room and found Charlotte struggling with a masked suspect,” police wrote in a release on Tuesday. “The suspect, now known to be Crizer, fired a shot at Suzanne Zaremba and another at her daughter Charlotte, before turning the gun on himself. Both the mask and the gun were recovered at the scene.”
Charlotte was transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
According to officials, they have yet to find a link between the suspect and victim. But friends and neighbors said the two definitely knew each other, rode the same bus to school and sat near each other in a class.
One neighbor said she was shocked by what happened because Crizer was such a nice kid.
"He just got his confirmation at church, just became an altar boy," said Anna Mae Lupashunski. "And I'm thinking, 'Why? Why God does this happen?’”
But a classmate of Crizer's didn't share that perception.
"I believed it when I heard it," said Molly Wood about finding out Crizer was the shooter. "You know he's just that kind of person. You don't want to mess with him, otherwise something could happen to you."
Wood was a friend of Charlotte Zaremba's and said it is unreal that she is gone.
"She was a great person," Wood said. "She seemed to have her life together. She worked at a hospital. She wanted to be a nurse. She definitely knew what she was doing and she was nice to everyone. It's sickening to think someone could do something like that to her, especially being the person she is."
The gun that Crizer used in the shooting had been reported stolen from the residence on Marybeth Way, according to officials. The motive in the homicide remains a mystery and officials do not know if Crizer was targeting Charlotte or her home.
Police said the investigation is not over and they will continue to go through computers and cell phones to see what they can learn.
The family released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying:
The family of Charlotte Michelle Zaremba is very grateful to the community for the outpouring of support. We are overwhelmed by the many prayers, tributes, and thoughts that have been sent our way as we mourn the sudden loss of an amazing and caring young woman.
We are particularly grateful to the Howard County Police and Fire Departments, University of Maryland Shock Trauma, the Howard County General Hospital pediatric unit, and the Howard County Violent Crimes Unit for the care and professionalism they have shown.
We respectfully ask for privacy as we deal with our grief and loss.
A Go Fund me account has been set up to assist with funeral expenses and for charitable organizations that Charlotte supported. The website is: www.gofundme.com/funds-for-charlotte-z
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be released when finalized.
Detectives are continuing to investigate. Anyone with information should contact police at 410-313-STOP or HCPDcrimetips@howardcountymd.gov.