Family recalls tragic life of slain prostitute

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Crime,Stephen Janis
For Emma O’Hearn, the suffering began long before the 25-year-old homeless woman became a prostitute, an occupation her family said led to her being savagely beaten in 2003.

At the tender of age of ten, the woman described by family as kind and caring was raped by her grandfather during an overnight stay.

“A nurse called me and said that somebody raped your niece, I just said, ‘What?' recalls Emma’s aunt, Ruth Pool. “She told a stranger on the street, and they called police.”

Police linked Emma’s grandfather to the rape through DNA.  The grandfather - who has since died - was convicted and sentenced to two years probation, but the heinous act pushed Emma on a path of self-destructive behavior and addiction from which she would never escape.

“She was never the same after that, she was always angry, and in a lot of pain,” Pool says. “She tried to kill herself several times.” 


Emma's mother, Joynce Heinonen, 47, can't  forget the rape.

“I think in a way she was angry with me, for leaving me with him,”  Heinonen says. “I don't know if she ever forgave us.”

Her daughter, she says, then turned to the streets.

“I tired to warn her, I told her it was dangerous,” says Heinonen sitting in her southeast Baltimore home. “But she would say, ‘Mom, it’s easy money.’”

The day Emma was attacked Pool remembers gazing upon her dying niece lying unconscious in a hospital room. 

“There was a footprint on the side of her head, I was just beside myself,” Pool recalled.  “The police said someone had literally stomped her head into the stoop.”

As Emma’s brain swelled, doctor's removed a part of her skull and placed it in a refrigerator. The doctors hoped to relieve the pressure caused by swelling.  On January 20, 2004  she died in the hospital after spending seven months in a coma.

“The detectives were there when she died,” Pool says. “That meant a lot to us.”

Emma also had another side of her that showed her as a kind-hearted person.

“One day she had ten dollars for crack but a little two-year-old boy needed new shoes,”  Heinonen says.  “She went and bought the shoes for the little boy instead of buying crack,” she said breaking down into tears. “She said, ‘Mom, look, I bought him some shoes instead of getting high,’” Heinonen recalls.

“That was Emma, always kind,” Heinonen says. “I don't know why anyone would want to hurt her.”

Nearly four years later, police charged  William Vincent Brown, 41 of Gywnn Oak in the attack. Last week Brown pleaded not guilty to charges that he savagely beat her and then dumped her body behind Calverton Middle School.

Brown also is facing charges in two other brutal attacks.

For more stories about the apparent serial killings of vulnerable women, visit these links:
www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/crime/Coroner_raised_questions_in_womans_death_.html
www.baltimoreexaminer.com/local/crime/Three_minutes_with_Cyrill_H_Wecht_on_Tyra_McClary.html
sjanis@baltimoreexaminer.com
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