A Spree Killer Who Terrorized Maryland: Joseph Palczynski

Anne Marble
8 min readSep 9, 2021

If you lived in Maryland during March 2000, you were glued to news reports about Joseph Palczynski. People who lived in or near Middle River in Baltimore County, Maryland, were in fear for more than a week.

A photo shows a headshot of Palczynski on the TV news with “Joseph Chester Palczynski” under the photo.
A Photo of Joseph Palczynski Circulated on Local News Broadcasts. (Source: Photo from Channel 13 WJZ.)

Who Was Joseph Palczynski?

According to some, he was the symbol of faults in the mental health care system. He became violent after a brain injury from a car accident. While we didn’t know as much about traumatic brain injury at that time, someone should have realized he needed treatment. If his family knew, why didn’t health professionals figure it out? What treatment he received was inconsistent. Did he slip through the cracks, or did he push his way through the cracks?

Palczynski amassed many domestic violence charges. Law enforcement officials did what they could. Baltimore County prosecutor Stephen E. Bailey said, “The scary thing is that the system worked fairly well.” That is scary. For all his crimes, Palczynski went to jail only twice.

He also went through mental health treatment multiple times. Maybe Palczynski didn’t want help. He cut short a stay in Maryland’s Spring Grove State Hospital by escaping in 1992. He made his way to Idaho and ended up in a standoff with authorities that lasted 16 hours.



Anne Marble

I’m a writer and a copy editor with experience in editing science and engineering articles. Click Lists to find my most popular articles. And hidden gems.