Tag Archives: Laurel Police Department

Stefanie Watson Program: Recapping a Special Night

This past Thursday night, July 9th, I had the honor of giving a special presentation on the Stefanie Watson cold case, describing Lost Laurel‘s role in helping to reignite the investigation into the 30-year-old crime—which finally yielded an arrest. Nearly 33 years after her murder, the case is slated to go to trial next month.

The program was part of “The Rest of the Story: a series based on “Ripped from the Headlines, Laurel in the News”—the current exhibit at the Laurel Museum, which focuses on local and national stories and how they were covered locally. The Stefanie Watson case is one of the stories. The exhibit runs through December 21, 2015, and visitors to the exhibit can browse the Laurel Leader from 1897-2008.


Presented by the Laurel Historical Society and hosted by the Laurel Police Department at their beautiful Partnership Activity Center, a good turnout braved some heavy rains to hear the program—including Mayor Craig Moe and Chief of Police Rich McLaughlin. My thanks again to all who came out, especially in that weather.

The highlight for me was one special surprise attendee—Christy Torres, who made the drive from Pennsylvania. Chris is the cousin and best friend of Stefanie Watson; the same cousin who had the unfathomable task of reporting her missing back in 1982, when she failed to show up for their planned trip to Ocean City.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 3.04.57 PM

(Photo: Donnie Conty)

Rich & Christy

(Photo: Lindsey Baker)

I’d spoken to Chris at length on the phone and by email, but hadn’t met her until Thursday night. After the presentation, she said, “I have something for you,” and pulled out a beautiful, hand-carved wooden box. “This belonged to Stefanie.”



It’s an incredible gift that I will truly never forget, and it will always occupy a special place on my desk. Despite having never known her, Stefanie’s memory was never far from my mind, all these years. I’m happy that it will be even closer now.

For those who weren’t able to attend, the entire program was filmed, complete with a question and answer session. You can watch directly on the link above, or view it here on YouTube. I’ll also be focusing my next episode of Lost Laurel for Laurel TV on this story, where you’ll be able to see the aerial photos, maps, etc. that were used in the program in more detail.


(Family photo)

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Stefanie Watson Program Tonight


(Photo: Laurel Leader, 7/1/82; Laurel Historical Society archives)

Laurel’s 4th of July Celebration in 1982 fell on July 3rd that year, which happened to be Stefanie Watson‘s final birthday—she’d go missing less than 3 weeks later. This banner, coincidentally, also faced her apartment on 8th Street.

Her tragic story is filled with some bizarre and amazing coincidences—join me tonight as I’ll share some fascinating information about one of Laurel’s most notorious cold cases, including some recent revelations that have never been published.

This free program is sponsored by the Laurel Historical Society, and is tonight, July 9 at 7 p.m. at the Laurel Police Department’s Partnership Activity Center, 811 Fifth Street.

More information:



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R.I.P., Two of Laurel’s Finest


Unless it involves a particular photo or artifact that’s relevant to the retail history of Laurel, I really don’t write a lot about the town’s police, fire, or rescue personnel. But I’ve certainly always had the greatest respect for them all.

This past Sunday, I had the chance to chat with Chief Rich McLaughlin at the city’s annual Mayor’s Open House event, and learned some sad news: the Laurel Police Department had just heard of the passing of not one, but two important members of their family: retired Chief Archie Cook, and retired Captain Philip Pollack.

Both have always been very familiar names to me, having grown up in the era in which they served. I remember Archie Cook’s name being in the Laurel Leader perpetually; and Phil Pollack was the officer I’d most often see cruising through my Steward Manor neighborhood in the early 1980s, keeping a kind but watchful eye on things.

Both of these gentlemen dedicated years—some of them dangerous years—keeping Laurel’s residents and businesses safe. When you reminisce about the places you frequented between the 1960s and 2000s, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember Chief Cook and Captain Pollack, who collectively served in Laurel’s line of duty for nearly half a century.

My thanks to them, and my condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues. Many thanks also to Chief McLaughlin for supplying photos for the above tribute graphic, and the following information on both men’s careers and respective funeral services:

Chief Archie Cook started his career at the Laurel Police Department in August of 1965, being promoted to Private First Class in 1968 and Corporal in 1969. In 1972, Cook was one of the officers who threw themselves on Alabama Governor George Wallace after an assassination attempt during a presidential campaign event at Laurel Shopping Center. Cook was promoted to Sergeant in 1976, Lieutenant in 1981, acting Chief in 1986, and was appointed Chief in July of 1987. He served as the Chief until his retirement in September of 1994. After his retirement, Chief Cook continued to serve the Laurel community as a security officer at Laurel High School. He later became the program coordinator for the Leadership Development Institute at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. Chief Cook was a well-rounded and highly respected officer and administrator, earning many awards and praise throughout his career. Chief McLaughlin said “Archie was a true leader, he was great friend who was always available to provide advice and guidance. He helped to make the Laurel Police Department what it is today.” Chief Cook is survived by his wife Deborah, his daughter Shannon Stastny, and granddaughter Michelle Stastny.

Funeral services for Chief Archie Cook
Thursday, March 26, 2015

2–4 and 6–8 PM
Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk
7110 Sollers Point Road
Dundalk, Maryland

A service to celebrate Archie’s life will be held on Friday, March 27th at 10:00 AM, also at the funeral home.

Interment following the service will be at Gardens of Faith Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

* * *
Captain Phillip Pollack began his career as a police officer at the University of Maryland College Park in November 1976 when he left to join the Laurel Police Department in the spring of 1980. He was promoted to Corporal in 1986, but left the department to pursue business interests. However, he returned to serve Laurel in 1990 and was again promoted to Corporal in 1995. He quickly advanced to Sergeant in 1998, Lieutenant in 2000, and Captain in 2007 before retiring in June of 2008. After his retirement, Captain Pollack worked as a project manager for a private security company. During his career Captain Pollack was a highly decorated officer and served in almost every unit of the agency, including the Emergency Response Team, Criminal Investigations, and Community Policing. Chief McLaughlin said “Phil will truly be missed, he was a great police officer, mentor and friend. He will never be forgotten.”

Captain Pollack is survived by his wife Carolin, children Matthew (Jen), Kimberly (Pat), Nathaniel (Kristen), and six grandchildren.

Funeral services for Captain Philip Pollack:
Wednesday March 25, 2015  
1:30 PM
University of Maryland Memorial Chapel – College Park
7600 Baltimore Avenue
College Park, Maryland
Inurnment will be private at a later date.

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