A beloved Maryland teacher didn’t know the man charged with her murder, and his motive and how he killed her still remain unclear more than a month after her death, authorities said.
Harold Francis Landon III, 33, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mariame Toure Sylla, 59, an elementary school teacher who vanished during her routine evening walk at a park near her Greenbelt, Maryland, condo on July 29. At a news conference Friday announcing his arrest, Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz confirmed that a woman’s partial remains found by a pond near Joint Base Andrews on Aug. 1 belonged to Sylla.
The announcement marked the end of a monthlong search for Sylla, a popular teacher at the Dora Kennedy French Immersion School in Greenbelt. Her body was identified by DNA, authorities said.
Mariame Toure Sylla, a beloved Maryland teacher, was killed on July 29, police believe.
A witness spotted the remains on the rocks by an industrial pond near a busy road in Clinton, about 20 miles south of where Sylla was last seen at Schrom Hills Park, authorities said. The body was unclothed and missing a head, its arms and lower legs, police said in an arrest warrant obtained by HuffPost.
A witness told police that on the night of July 31, they took pictures of a man they had seen throwing something in the pond near where Sylla’s remains were found. The witness said the man, who was driving an old white pickup truck, walked to another area of the pond and appeared to clean his hands in the water.
Surveillance footage of the area obtained by investigators showed a white truck pull into a parking lot by the pond at around 9:30 p.m. on July 31, turn off its lights and drive on the grass toward the pond, according to the arrest warrant.
Phone records obtained by police show Landon and Sylla were both in the Schrom Hills Recreation Center just after 7 p.m. on July 29, the last time she was seen alive, and that Landon was in the area of the pond at the time a man was seen dumping what is believed to be her remains.
Landon identified himself as the man in the photographs and video stills, and allegedly said the truck, a 2004 white Chevrolet Silverado with Florida license plates, belonged to him when he was interviewed by police, as did other people interviewed who knew Landon.
Landon was already in jail when murder charges were filed against him. He was arrested Aug. 1 on domestic violence charges, which Aziz said were unrelated to Sylla’s killing.
When police searched Landon’s home, they found a power saw that was consistent with the body’s wounds.
“Miss Sylla was a much beloved teacher and a valued member of our community,” Aziz said in a news conference Friday.
Authorities have not determined any motive to the killing, and Aziz said he didn’t believe that would make any difference in providing closure to the family. “Whatever reason — it’s senseless. … The type of violence is depraved and it won’t wouldn’t make any difference to me. It’s just — It’s disturbing.”
“We haven’t found any connection that these two people know each other,” Aziz said. “The most horrific crime you can do is murder, and do that for some unknown, unjustifiable reason.”
A Sept. 1 press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the killing of Sylla.
“To God we belong and to Him we return,” CAIR Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry said in the release. “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Sr. Mariame. May God enter her into the highest level of paradise and bring the alleged perpetrator of this horrible crime to swift justice.”
A funeral for Sylla is scheduled for Friday at Diyanet Center of America Mosque in Landham, according to a GoFundMe to cover funeral expenses.
“Sister Mariame Toure Silva was not only an esteemed member of our community, but also a beloved teacher in her school, among her friends. Our community lost her in a horrific crime. In the face of such a terrible tragedy, no words are enough to subside our anger and dispel our sorrow,” the GoFundMe says.