BALTIMORE — Homicide detectives scoured the grounds of a model home Thursday in Maryland after a building company employee was found slain inside the suburban unit he was trying to sell.
Authorities say the battered body of 33-year-old Steven Bernard Wilson, a sales and marketing representative for builder Ryan Homes, was found Wednesday evening in the model home he was working out of in Hanover, Maryland. The Anne Arundel County Police Department said officers were dispatched to the home following a 911 call but could not confirm whether Wilson made the call himself. The married father of two young children was pronounced dead at the scene.
"There was very clear upper body trauma. We can't say yet if it was a gunshot wound, a knife wound or something like that because the autopsy hasn't been completed yet," said police spokeswoman Sgt. Jacklyn Davis.
Wilson's body was sent to Baltimore for an autopsy. His family released a statement saying they were awaiting the results of the police investigation and described him as a "loving husband, father, son, brother, and friend." A spokesman for the parent company of Ryan Homes, Virginia-based NVR Inc., declined to comment.
A search of the model home and surrounding areas was conducted by air and dogs, and Anne Arundel police say they identified "multiple pieces of evidence" throughout the night. On Thursday morning, over a dozen cadets searched for more evidence in a grassy field directly behind the model unit, where red balloons attached to a "for sale" sign waved in the breeze.
Homicide detectives did not yet have a motive, Davis said, describing the investigation as "very active."
The slaying worried nearby residents living in the kind of suburban properties Wilson sold for his employer and it rattled real estate agents who work open houses.
Tanisha Ashford, who sells homes from her base in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, said she was taking extra precautions in the wake of the slaying in the model home. She said she's "always on guard" when showing properties and uses a smartphone safety app marketed to real estate agents. She also always tells her husband where she's working if he can't accompany her.
"Most times he goes with me when it's new clients, especially if a male," Ashford said.
Bob Johnston, CEO of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, said Wilson was not a licensed real estate agent, but a builder's representative tasked with selling the company's model homes.
"It's still a real estate-related thing, there's no question about it. And we're extremely concerned and putting that out to our members because it could have been one of them," Johnston said in a phone interview.
Other real estate agents and home sellers across the country have become victims of deadly violence over the years. In 2003, a man tortured two female real estate agents in Cobb County, Georgia, before he shot both in the head. In 2006, a North Carolina real estate agent was found fatally stabbed in a McKinney model home by a house-hunting couple. But Johnston said this was the first time in recent memory he can recall such a violent act in the coastal swath of Maryland where he works.
"There have been a few close calls and stuff like where people have had a real bad feeling about something, but nothing along these lines," he said, adding that self-defense trainings for staffers have become commonplace in the real estate industry.