Early ‘John Doe’ Probe Left Local Family In A Panic, Fearing Worst
BERLIN — For several hours on Sunday morning, a local family was under the impression a family member was the victim in the fatal pedestrian collision on Route 50 near Route 589, but Maryland State Police investigators said this week they were merely trying to identify the victim and did not intend to wrongly inform the family of the bad news.
Around 2:20 a.m. on Sunday, Stephen Bird, 38, of Madison, N.J., was struck and killed by a vehicle on eastbound Route 50 near its intersection with Route 589. However, Bird was not carrying any identification and when Maryland State Police (MSP) investigators attempted to identify the victim, one of the officers on the scene determined the victim loosely met the description of a local man named Tim Bailey, who works at Wal-Mart nearby and was known to walk back and forth across Route 50.
With a “John Doe” on their hands and a possible match on the victim, MSP troopers began exploring the possibility the victim was Bailey, setting in motion a traumatic sequence of events for the Bailey family who were mistakenly led to believe their brother was the victim in the fatal collision.
Stephanie Bailey said this week she was up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and her brother, Tim Bailey, was up and getting ready to go to work at Wal-Mart. Bailey left for work around 7 a.m. as usual. Around 8:10 a.m., Stephanie Bailey got a call from her brother Paul, who told her there were two MSP troopers at his house telling him that Tim got hit by a car out in front of Wal-Mart and did not make it.
“They did not tell him what time this had happened,” she said this week. “So my dad and I high tail it over to Wal-Mart to see what is going on. We didn’t want to accept it, but we got to Wal-Mart and everything was calm and there was nothing going on. So we go in and ask to see Tim and he comes out from the back.”
Stephanie Bailey said her brother, Paul, called authorities and said the troopers informed him more about what had happened. Bailey said her father told the troopers Tim was fine and that he was right there talking with him. Bailey said the MSP Berlin barrack then sent two troopers to Wal-Mart to confirm the whereabouts and identity of the real Tim Bailey.
However, MSP 1st-Sgt Chris Davala said this week Tim Bailey’s brother was not notified his brother was the victim in a fatal pedestrian collision on Route 50, but rather had been suspected of being the possible victim because he met the description of the victim and was known to walk back and forth across Route 50 to his place of employment.
Davala did say an officer at the scene identified Bailey as the possible victim, which set in motion an investigation into his whereabouts. The real victim, later identified as Bird, did not have any identification on him at the time of the accident.
“The family was never informed their brother was the victim in a fatal accident,” he said. “We did go to see his brother in Pittsville to make verification of his whereabouts because technically we had a John Doe and we were still doing our investigation. We were following up on leads and there was a possibility the victim could have been Tim Bailey.”
Davala said the incident was not a case of mistaken identity, but merely part of an ongoing investigation into a “John Doe” fatally struck and killed by a vehicle on Route 50.
“One of the officers on the scene who was familiar with Mr. Bailey thought it could have been him, so we went over to Wal-Mart and talked with the manager who said it could be based on the description,” he said. “At that point, we went to his brother’s house in Pittsville to verify his possible whereabouts, not to inform him that his brother was the victim in a fatal accident.”
According to Stephanie Bailey, when Tim Bailey did arrive for work at Wal-Mart early Sunday morning, store employees had already learned he was the possible victim in the fatal collision on Route 50.
“When he walked into work that morning, he could not figure out why people were being nice to him or crying over him until we arrived and told him exactly what was going on,” she said.
It’s important to note MSP did not release any information on the accident until after 1 p.m. on Sunday, long after Bird had been identified as the victim. Nonetheless, for a few hours at least on Sunday, the Bailey family was under the impression their brother was the victim.
“We had gotten a hold of as many people as we could before it blew out of control to assure them Tim was alive,” said Stephanie Bailey. “Thankfully, we got a hold of our mother before the police did. I had nightmares last night and my mom texted me earlier that she had moments yesterday when she could not stop crying. Needless to say, this scared everyone in our family and we really wish they would have investigated further instead of going on a hunch and not the facts.”
Davala, however, said the MSP merely followed up on a lead.
“I’m sure the family at first was a little distraught,” he said. “We’re apologetic we had to send a trooper out there to confirm his whereabouts, but we were investigating an accident with a John Doe and it was a possibility.”