PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY RICHARD FRIEND
This Was No Joyride
A 1958 Carjacking Took One Laurel Couple on
a Strange and Terrifying Trip
Laurel Noir is a series focused on historic crimes and the darker underside of our hometown.
By Richard Friend | This article originally appeared in Voices of Laurel Winter 2022
They had just finished watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents that Sunday night in August, 1958. Frank Tuozzo, Jr. and his wife, June, both 36 years old, had no idea they were about to find themselves smack dab in a horrifying plot the likes of which the Master of Suspense himself might have concocted.
The Tuozzos lived on Hance Place, just off Bowie Road. June was the daughter of City Councilman Thomas Murphy, and Frank was the well-liked manager of the Laurel Diner (the current Tastee Diner). Just after 10 p.m. that night, they decided to take a short drive before bedtime—perhaps to drop by his parents’ house on Montgomery Street. Noticing that the elder Tuozzos still had visitors, Frank and June continued along Montgomery Street to Sandy Spring Road. They drove to Willis Hall—a popular country music venue that would see the likes of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and George Jones over the next decade—where they made a left onto Contee Road. This being before I-95 was built, what is now Old Sandy Spring Road actually connected with Contee Road almost exactly where the Route 198 overpass is today.
From Contee Road, they took Cherry Lane down to Washington Boulevard. The couple, by this time deep into an enjoyable conversation, decided to make one more loop around town before heading home for the night. Within a few minutes, they were once again cruising along Cherry Lane. June was the first to notice the speeding car coming up behind them. “Look out,” she said. “Here comes a hot rodder.” Frank pulled over to let the aggressive driver pass, but the car suddenly swerved and stopped, forcing the Tuozzos off the road. The driver exited his car and approached the couple, shouting, “I want to see your driver’s license.”
Frank realized that the man wasn’t a police officer, and quickly rolled the windows up. But before he could put the Buick into reverse, the stranger was at his door with a snubnosed revolver, ordering them out of the car.
The Tuozzos reported that the man seemed nervous and unsure of what exactly he had planned. He first made the couple lie down on the side of the road. Then he changed his mind and ordered Frank to turn off the Buick’s engine—which had still been idling with its lights on—and hand over the keys.
Next, he had Frank and June lie down in the center of the road while he planned his next move. The couple asked him repeatedly what he wanted, but “he never seemed to comprehend” their questions, according to a front page story in the News Leader written by editor Gertrude Poe.
After briefly looking into the trunk of the Tuozzos’ car, he closed the lid before opening the trunk of his own vehicle. “Then he ordered me into the trunk of his car,” Frank later explained. “I could hear the lock turn, and I heard him tell June to get in front.” At gunpoint, the man forced Mrs. Tuozzo to keep her head under the dash.
With Frank in the trunk and June ducking low in the front seat, neither were able to know with certainty what route the vehicle was taking, but they could guess. To them, it seemed that he continued down Cherry Lane to Washington Boulevard, where he turned south. He then turned right onto Contee Road. The Tuozzos believed he made this loop twice, possibly crossing over Washington Boulevard the second time and going as far as Bowie Road before returning. During one particularly tense moment, he stopped to let another car pass by—holding the gun to June’s head as he warned her “not to do anything.”
This 1957 aerial photo shows Laurel near the time of the Tuozzos’ abduction. Laurel Shopping Center, which opened in 1956, was only half the size it would eventually become. The Laurel Sanitarium still sat between the shopping center and Cherry Lane. And Old Sandy Spring Road connected to Contee Road at the site where the Route 198 overpass at I-95 is today. HISTORICAERIALS.COM
The man, described as White, approximately 25 years old, six feet tall, 195 pounds, and dark haired with prominent facial features, proceeded to Van Dusen Road, and finally stopped at the Contee gravel pit.
Frank, who had been unable to force open the trunk from the inside with a jack handle, reluctantly gave up on trying, realizing that any damage he did to the lock might make opening the trunk even more difficult. He continued to lie in the pitch dark, cramped space, fearing the worst may be yet to come.
The man then forced Mrs. Tuozzo to remove her clothes, and “although he molested her and talked to her in obscene language about sex, he did not attack her,” according to the Leader. After removing his belt, he used it to tie June’s hands to the steering wheel before saying, chillingly, “I’m going to get your husband out of the trunk so he can watch this.”
Mrs. Tuozzo reported that the man seemed to beso nervous throughout the or deal as to even have difficulty speaking. She watched in fear as he walked toward the rear of the car. Then, just as suddenly, he returned and began to untie her wrists. What he said next—now without any hint of nervousness—shocked her almost as much as the abduction itself. “I’m deranged, and I’m sorry for all I’ve done—and I’m glad I didn’t do anything more. I’ll be all right when I have a cup of coffee.”
He told June to put her clothes back on, and then to walk toward the road and turn right. As she did, she called out to Frank, still in the trunk, to let him know that she was okay. As Mrs. Tuozzo began walking away from the attacker, she worried that she might hear a gunshot at any moment. But no gunshots were fired.
The man unlocked the trunk and ordered Frank out. He gave Mr. Tuozzo the same instructions he had given his wife—to walk some fifty yards ahead, where he could rejoin her. As he set off, the man got back into his car and drove away, heading south. The Tuozzos ran to the nearest house they could find, nearly a quarter mile away. Now 11:35 p.m., they aroused the owner and phoned the Maryland State Police.
In describing the abductor, June seemed most struck by the man’s change in demeanor after regaining his senses. He’d lost his nervousness, she said, and even “had a pleasant speaking voice.” She added, “At no time did he use poor grammar.”
The Tuozzos’ hour-long nightmare was over, but the unhinged man in the blue Buick never was identified. If there was one positive, it was that he also never returned to terrorize anyone else in Laurel.