It was nine years ago this month that Joseph Palczynski terrorized residents of the Baltimore region by killing four people and taking a family of three hostage in one of the longest one-man standoffs ever known. Contacted in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Lynn Whitehead, one of the women Palczynski held hostage tells WBAL Radio “all I want to do is get my head back together.”
Joseph Palczynski, an electrician and body builder, had a lengthy record of domestic violence and related crimes. At age 31, he had been through at least 7 young women over 13 years. Loving them, controlling then, then abusing them. His last love was 20 year old Tracy Whitehead.
Part 1: Lynn Whitehead
The bizarre set of circumstances that led to a 97-hour standoff began on March 4th, 2000 when “Joby”, as he was known to his girlfriends, was arrested in the Bowley's Quarters area of Baltimore County. He was charged with assault after a domestic argument with his girlfriend, Tracy.”
Despite his lengthy criminal history, Palczynski was released the following day on $7500 bond put up by his mother. Lynn Whitehead tells WBAL Radio that “they should have never let him out.” On March 7th, he kidnapped Tracy Whitehead and killed a couple with whom she was living with. A Good Samaritan (David L. Meyer – Ed.) was also killed by Palczynksi as he attempted to help Tracy. Two more people were shot on March 8th as Palczynski attempted to carjack passing motorists. One, a pregnant mother, died at a local hospital. The second shooting victim was a 2 year old boy who sustained minor injuries.
Joseph Palczynski then disappeared. An extensive manhunt was initiated that evening. During that 10 day period, Tracy Whitehead was able to escape and Palczynski found himself in Virginia where he kidnapped a 53-year-old man, forcing that man to drive him back to Baltimore County to look for Tracy.
Lynn Whitehead says her life and that of her family have been permanently affected by Palczynski. She tells WBAL Radio that her daughter “has been on medication for years after seeing all them people get killed. She'll never be the same. And Bradley, he never talked about it as a kid. That's all he talks about now.” Lynn adds that in the past 9 years, she has been in and out of psychiatric wards three times and rehab 20 times. “I'm still trying to get through it.”
Lynn Whitehead remembers the day Tracy brought Joe Palczynski around. “I met him out front in my yard. He seemed like a nice guy. It was always yes ma'am…no ma'am with him. He always called me Miss Lynn and everything. If you gave him something to drink, it was thank you. It was just strange how he snapped like that.”
Nine years later Whitehead says Palczynski “made me scared in life to where I lock my doors. I can never be by myself. I live with all my kids. I will not stay home by myself anymore.”
On March 17th, 2000 Joseph Palczynski re-surfaced at Lynn Whitehead's Dundalk apartment in the 7500 block of Lange Road.
It was St. Patrick's Day and Mel Blizzard was at a restaurant having dinner with his wife. Their food had just arrived when Blizzard's pager went off. The Commander of the Baltimore County Hostage Negotiation Team called the communications center and was told that Joseph Palczynski had taken three hostages on Lange Road. He was told to report to the Eastpoint Fire Station, where police had set up a command center. Forty minutes later Blizzard was being briefed on what has turned out to be the second longest “static” hostage barricade in U.S. history.
Part 2: Bradley McCord Details How Joby Shot His Way In
Joseph Palczynski was on the run from March 8th to March 17th. He spent much of that time in the woods using his survival skills. Police also surmise that because Palczynski was familiar with the local waterfront areas and the railroads he jumped a train that passed through Virginia.
Armed with handguns, a rifle, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, Joby showed up at Lynn Whitehead's first floor apartment at 7520 Lange Road in Dundalk on March 17th, 2000. He was looking for his girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead.
Twelve year old Bradley, Lynn Whitehead's son, spotted him first coming up to the door. Andy McCord, Lynn's boyfriend, called 9-1-1. The voice on the other side of the door claimed to be the police but the dispatcher told Andy that officers had not yet arrived.
Palczynski began shooting and as McCord moved away from the door, Joby busted in. Palczynski grabbed the phone from McCord and told the dispatcher that he would kill not only Lynn but Andy, and their 12 year old son as well.
Today, 21 year old Bradley McCord recalls to WBAL Radio what happened next inside the apartment. “Me and my father scattered, my mom went behind some other door. He (his father) picked the dresser up and threw it against the door and I just jumped on top of him.”
Lynn Whitehead says “I was hiding behind the door in my daughter's room”. He (Joby) was shooting. Andy and Brad were screaming. I was about to pass out behind the door in Tracy's bedroom. Then he found me. He held a gun to my head and told Brad and Andy that if they didn't come out of the bedroom he was going to shoot me.”
Brad and Andy came out and then Palczynski began ordering Lynn to tie Andy up and barricade the windows with sheets and mattresses. It was the start of 4 days of hell for Lynn, Andy, and Bradley at the hands of a guy who had already killed 4 people and had been on the run for 9 days.
Joseph Palczynski wanted Tracy Whitehead brought to him. Bradley remembers “he had like 20 pairs of socks on. He sat on the toilet with the door open while we all laid in the hallway that night. He just looked all crazy.” Joe Palczynski held Lynn, Bradley, and Andy at gunpoint for the next 97 hours.
Part 3: How It All Ended
From Friday night, March 17th, 2000 to Tuesday night, March 21st, Joe Palczynski tried to get police to bring his girlfriend,Tracey Whitehead, to him as he held three people hostage in an apartment in Dundalk. But that was out of the question. Police had her hidden in a motel and she had no knowledge of what was going on. She wasn't even allowed to watch tv or listen to the radio.
Bradley McCord was being held hostage with his mother, Lynn Whitehead and father, Andy McCord. The 12 year old says he had actually gained Joe Palczynski's trust over the 97 hour standoff in Lynn's apartment. He says they talked about going jet skiing and how Joby had “messed up his life.” Bradley says they even played scratch-off lottery tickets. “We all played. He (Palczynski) played and he had the winning one. He said here, I ain't going to be needing this anymore.”
Lynn Whitehead says after 4 days of being held captive, she had had enough. She found some of her daughter Tracy's Xanax tablets. She melted them and mixed them with some iced tea and offered it to Palczynski. Lynn says “about ten minutes later he was out of it.”
The plan was to escape through a window while Joby was asleep. But there was a problem. Lynn's boyfriend, Andy McCord and their son Bradley were also asleep. Whitehead tried to wake them but couldn't. She decided to jump out of the window in her daughter's room. A window which she says she had cracked open earlier in the day. When asked why she escaped without Andy and Bradley, Whitehead says “I was just getting more crazy in my head and I just took the first opportunity I could to get out without even thinking.”
Eventually Andy McCord woke up and feared that if he tried to wake his son, Palczynski would also wake up. He too went out the window.
Retired Baltimore County Commander of the Hostage Negotiation team, Mel Blizzard says that is when they knew they had to move in because Palczynski was in there with a child and no telling what he would do. Police stormed the front window and they say as Palczynski woke up and went for his gun, they started firing. The medical examiner's report concludes that Joseph Palczynski took 27 bullets. He never made it off of the couch.
Brad McCord today says he thought he was going to die when the shooting started. When asked how he feels today about being left inside the apartment by his mother and father, Bradley says “I talk to my father about that many times. Many people call him wussy for what he did. He swears to me that Joby wouldn't hurt me but I say what if dad, what if? I got a kid now and, I was like, no matter what, man, I would not leave my kid in that situation. Never. That's just the way I am. I love my father to death now but I had arguments where I called him a coward.”
Bradley McCord says that 97 hour hostage standoff changed his life. For years after it ended he was afraid that Palczynski's mother would come after him so he got into the habit of always locking his doors.
Lynn Whitehead says she has been in and out of psychiatric wards three times and in rehab 20 times. She tells WBAL Radio “I'm still trying to get through it.”
Lynn Whitehead has moved from Baltimore County to Myrtle Beach and now to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she lives with Andy McCord, her two sons, their girlfriends, and a grandchild, Bradley's child.
Lynn Whitehead says her daughter Tracy, now 29 years old, has married and is living somewhere in Virginia.