Police seek suspect in assault of woman, 18, in Pikesville

House found empty after barricade situation lasting overnight

The Baltimore Sun/June 10, 2010

Baltimore County police were searching for at least one suspect in the assault on an 18-year-old woman that led to a barricade Wednesday around a Pikesville house owned by a suspected religious cult leader.

A spokesman for the department said police were called to the 3700 block of Michelle Way about 10 p.m. Tuesday for a serious assault. They found the woman suffering from undisclosed injuries, and she was taken to an area hospital. Her condition, originally listed as critical, has been upgraded to serious, authorities said Thursday.

Authorities, unsure whether the suspect remained in the home, surrounded the residence overnight until they were granted a search warrant. Department spokesman Lt. Robert McCullough said police entered the house about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, but the residence was empty.

Police are talking with a person of interest but have made no arrests.

Neighbors said they rarely saw people there, but said the brick house with a carefully manicured lawn underwent numerous renovations.

"I always saw people working at all hours," said one neighbor, Janice Perlman, who did not know anyone who lived there but said she occasionally saw younger men or women working in the heavily wooded yard. She said the front yard of the home had been dug up several times and that several trees had been cut down, giving a limited view of the peach-colored front door from the street. She said the windows always had the blinds pulled shut and that she rarely saw lights on.

"Everybody on the street is concerned," she said.

Another neighbor, Margaret Schwartz, 55, said she had never noticed any problems with the neighbors, saying she too rarely saw anyone at the home.

"We kept waiting for someone to move in to introduce ourselves," she said. "I don't think they are actually living here. It's very strange."

The home is owned by Avraham Cohen - also known as R.C. Samanta Roy - the president of the Wisconsin-based Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology, a nonprofit educational organization. County police said Cohen is not a part of the investigation into the incident, and he was not believed to be at the residence at the time of the assault.

Members of Cohen's group bought the Pikesville home in Feb. 2001 for $400,000. Cohen took over the deed to the home in 2008, and electronic tax records show that he paid nothing for the transaction. The home is now assessed at $678,000, according to state records.

The goal of Cohen's group is to establish a world-class educational institute in the Shawano, Wis., area, according to its website. But former members and authorities have labeled the group a cult, and the victim might have been part of the organization.

County police say the investigation is continuing.

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