Isabelle Weissend takes a walk in her neighborhood in Ballenger Creek almost daily in order to destress.
Weissend, 19, will start on the sidewalk in front of her house on Briargrove Court in Farmbrook, walk a few hundred yards and then hop onto a path through the woods that eventually leads to a secluded area along Pike Branch Creek, near a partially-built treehouse.
She started at around 4:45 p.m. Saturday. When she reached the treehouse area, she discovered a mysterious substance in the dirt — which turned out to be blood — and then, something more shocking.
“It looked, like, purple to me,” Weissend said Sunday about the blood. “Like soda sitting in the sun, it gets like bubbly and syrupy and stuff, so I thought it was grape soda. ... And then I looked to the right, and I just saw the girl’s body laying, kind of on the bank of the creek.”
When Weissend saw the body, and that the girl wasn’t moving, she went home and told her family to call for help.
That call triggered an investigation into the death of a 17-year-old girl from Hagerstown, which has been ruled a homicide. According to a news release Sunday, the girl had “apparent injuries.”
The sheriff’s office did not identify the deceased, but said the body had been taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore for an autopsy to be conducted. They said in a Facebook post Saturday “there is no danger to the public,” but there was no information Sunday if any suspects had been apprehended. Dozens of Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies and deputy recruits were seen combing the area Saturday night and Sunday morning looking for evidence.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said in a text message Sunday evening that the homicide remained under investigation and that no arrests had been made. He also dispelled a rumor that three men had been taken away in handcuffs.
When asked about if there was still an immediate danger to the public or if any suspects were still at-large, Jenkins responded: “I’m confident in saying we don’t have any reason to believe there is an immediate danger to the public. No one is currently in custody for the homicide.”
Taylor Clarke, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, added in her own text message: “At this point Investigators believe that this was a target specific incident, not a random crime of violence. We absolutely can’t comment any further than that as it will cause [detriment] to the investigation.”
Nelson Gonzalez, Weissend’s father, said he remembers his daughter coming into the house and yelling that she found a body. Then, he went to look where the body was laying.
Many kids often hang out at that spot alongside Pike Branch Creek, near where the platform of the almost built treehouse was placed on a tree, Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez thought of his seven kids as soon as he heard the news from his daughter.
“It was shocking ... The first thing I thought about is it could have been my own daughter,” he said.
Gonzalez moved to the area from near Silver Spring over a decade ago because Frederick County seemed like a nice place to raise a family, he said. He has lived in his current house since late last year. He described the area as quiet and peaceful, and that many of his neighbors are friendly.
Several of his neighbors on Briargrove Court agreed.
Mark Blum has lived there for almost three years. He said that kids often goof off in the neighborhood, including near the half-built treehouse—but Saturday was different.
“Obviously, this is not kids stuff,” Blum said of the body being found.
Like Gonzalez, Blum immediately thought of his own kids when he heard the news. He hopes those responsible are arrested and that justice is served.
“We have six kids ... it’s the first thing we did, was get a text from all of them telling us they were OK,” Blum said outside his front door Sunday.
Several residents from throughout the Farmbrook community spent Sunday driving to the end of Briargrove Court to pay their respects.
One person tied some balloons around the first of two small footbridges on the path through the woods, a tribute to the 17-year-old girl.
Weissend said the treehouse area has been a peaceful spot since her family moved there.
“Since December, I would always go there,” she said. “It was just like a safe space to just get away and stuff, so six months, it’s been fine. When I go down there, there’s a family that goes down there, sometimes I just see teenagers like my age down there … it’s usually safe, I have no issues with the people that I see down there.”
She said she thinks of the family of the girl often.
“I pray for the child’s family, I pray for her peace, and I pray for her justice,” Weissend said.