It happened 24 years ago. On March 22, 1992, James Essel, the owner of the Sugarloaf Mountain Market at 23800 Old Hundred Road in Comus was murdered as he worked in the store that Sunday evening.
Today, Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division – Cold Case Squad are still working to investigate the homicide which happened 24 years ago and they are asking for the public’s help. Detectives are releasing information about the crime and the investigation to the public and are hoping someone may remember something that they did not think was important enough to report to police in 1992.
According to detectives, the victim James Essel was the owner of the Sugarloaf Mountain Market, and detectives believed that he was stabbed to death inside the store during an apparent robbery, which police believe occurred between the hours of 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm, on March 22, 1992.
Investigators have reason to believe that the suspect was known to the area and may have been a prior customer to the store. Detectives also have reason to believe that the suspect possibly smoked Marlboro or Marlboro Light cigarettes.
Evidence at the crime scene indicated that Essel struggled with the unknown suspect during the apparent robbery, police said. Recovered blood evidence supported that the suspect sustained an injury during the struggle. Detectives obtained a DNA profile of the suspect’s blood that was left at the scene. The DNA profile was entered into a national database in 1992 but as of yet, there has been no match.
A witness observed a black, Pontiac Fiero in the parking lot of the store during the time frame when the murder occurred.
Anyone with information regarding suspect(s) or any other details that might advance this investigation is urged to contact the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect(s). Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
Top: The victim James Essel was stabbed to death during a robbery of the Sugarloaf Mountain Market 24 years ago, on March 22, 1992.
Next: The exterior of the Sugarloaf Mountain Market in 1992.
Next: An example of a Pontiac Fiero. The same color, make and model vehicle seen parked at the Sugarloaf Mountain Market at the time of the murder.
Next: Blood evidence left on the cash register by the suspect, showing evidence that James Essel struggled with his killer, according to police.
Left: More blood evidence, detectives found blood drops left by the suspect inside the Sugarloaf Mountain Market.
Photos courtesy MCPD.