A 32-year-old man has been charged with murder in the strangling death of his 63-year-old mother in her Northeast Baltimore home after funeral home employees preparing the woman’s body for burial discovered signs of trauma to her head and neck that had not been apparent to law enforcement, police said Friday.
Erich Justin Kuhn was arrested Thursday and transported to Central Booking, charged with first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, and a weapons charge, police said.
According to a statement of charges, Kuhn “provided a complete confession” of the crime, giving “details on how he attacked his mother in the television room and struck her with his bare hands,” then “strangled her for approximately 7 minutes until she stopped gurgling and finally died.”
The weapon charge, the document says, relates to Kuhn using a “telephone cord” with “the intent and purpose of causing injury” to his mother.
Kuhn, of the 3000 block of Hamilton Avenue, did not have an attorney listed in court records as of Friday, and could not be reached for comment.
Officers were first called to the home of his mother Cathy Kuhn — in the 5900 block of Glenoak Avenue, in the city’s Glenham Belhar neighborhood — about 3:50 p.m. Wednesday after her husband Michael Kuhn came home and found her unresponsive, said Lt. Jarron Jackson, a police spokesman.
At the time, signs of trauma “were not apparent” and officers did not suspect foul play, Jackson said.
Police communicated their observations from the scene to the state medical examiner’s office, which “declined to come out [to the scene] because we didn’t see any obvious signs of trauma,” Jackson said.
The medical examiner’s office could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Kuhn’s body was then released to her family, and transported to the Leonard J. Ruck Funeral Home on Harford Road, according to the statement of charges. Staff there discovered “possible signs of trauma” to Kuhn’s head and neck, and “immediately called police,” Jackson said.
The statement of charges says the funeral home staff discovered “possible ligature marks” — marks left by a cord, rope or similar item — around Kuhn’s throat and “possible trauma” to her head.
Ruck Funeral Homes, which operates the Harford Road funeral home and several others in the city, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The statement of charges says homicide detectives then responded to the home and quickly ordered that it be secured for a forensic examination and the collection of evidence. It says they discovered “evidence of a struggle/fight in the living room area” where Cathy Kuhn’s body was found.
“Several witnesses were located and transported to the homicide unit for interviews,” according to the statement of charges, and information was provided that Erich Kuhn “was possibly responsible” for his mother’s death.
Jackson said the homicide investigators “began putting together a timeline of events and spoke with several witnesses, which led them to the son,” Jackson said.
Kuhn was located near or at his home on Hamilton Avenue and taken to the homicide unit for a formal interview Thursday, according to the statement of charges.
“Erich was advised of and waived his rights and provided a complete confession as to how and why he killed his mother,” the document says.
His home also was secured and searched for evidence.
The medical examiner’s office ruled his mother’s death a homicide by strangulation the same day, according to the statement of charges.
Jackson said the fact that police missed any signs of trauma or foul play when they first responded to the home was not indicative of a failure in the process for identifying alleged crimes of this nature. In fact, he said the case showed the “checks and balances” built into the system work.
“It’s a three-tiered process to catch incidents like this,” Jackson said, referring to assessments by police, the medical examiner’s office and funeral home employees, who he said are trained to call police if they identify any signs of foul play or trauma.
Jackson said it is not the case that victims of violence are buried in Baltimore without the trauma that killed them ever coming to light.
“That’s not what happens,” Jackson said. “You have multiple sets of eyes placed on remains to prevent something like that from happening.”