Written By Lisa Breslin

The movie screen rolled down at Carroll Arts Center April 16, and a live report by newscaster Marianne Banister revealed shocking clues about an artful murder.

“I am standing here at the Arts Center, where the guests are gathering in the theatre for what they had hoped would be their Spring Gala,” Bannister said. “It has now turned into a crime sceneÉ”

A fictionalized crime scene, that is – and the scenario was all part of a unique fund raiser for The Carroll County Arts Council that is expected to earn as much as $8,000. Participants were frisked at the front entrance, fingerprinted, and prodded by Inspector Clueless (a.k.a. Arts Council Board President Paul Zimmerman) and a host of other bizarre cast members as they tried to unravel the mystery.

Wine and ale (compliments of Total Discount Liquor and Clay Pipe Brewing Company) and fine cuisine, provided by Harry’s Main Street Grille helped to keep the 170-plus participants convivial.

“I love that we are a part of this,” said Mark Kaidy.

“I’m a big CSI fan and this is exciting fun,” said Mary Honeman, who searched for clues with her husband, Gary.

“It’s a wonderful evening,” said Anna Chiavacci who attended the fund raiser with her friend Chris Meerdter. “Madame Trevanian” (Stacey Schaefer) read fortunes (and gave clues) in the Red Room.

“Professor Morearty” (Pat Flaherty) offered his theory about the conspiracy (and gave clues) in the Arts Center’s Blue Room. And roving reporter Jennifer Italiani roamed the first and second floors offering “live” newscasts (and clues).

“I love mysteries and I hope to solve this one,” said Jon Binder during the first half hour. Ultimately, Westminster Lloyd Helt, Jillian Copek, and sixth grader Jacob Rosner solved the mystery.

The victim: Edgar Allen Poe

The assailant: Madame Trevanian.

“The most enjoyable parts for me were watching so many people scurrying for clues and trying to get their guesses in as quickly as possible,” said Zimmerman.“Everyone seemed to have such a great time. There was a lot of laughter and, as an actor, you treasure those moments.”

Commemorating an Avid Environmentalist

When Beth Sergott and Dr. Susan Bollinger started planning a fund raiser for the Francesca Borrelli Johnson Environmental Fund in December, they wondered if many more than 70 guests would attend.

When the doors opened for the April 9 event at the Carroll Arts Center, more than 300 people joined Dr. Niel J. Borrelli, his wife, JoAnne Kissinger Borrelli; Francesca’s husband, Rob Johnson; the Borrelli’s daughter and sonin- law, Nicole and Loren Estes, as they paid tribute to Francesca and vowed to keep one of her interests alive.

“Francesca’s absolute passion was protecting and restoring the environment,” said Dr. Borrelli, “She was a special person who loved to get us involved in her efforts to keep the environment clean.”

Francesca, 35, died the day after Christmas last year from injuries she suffered in a car accident. A 1987 graduate of Westminster High School, Francesca received a Bachelor of Science degree from Towson University in geology. She was in the master’s program in environmental sciences at Towson and worked as an environmental scientist at EBI Consulting in York, Pa.

“She had such a spirit and she was a fiery activist and a scientist,” said Sergott. “She went at everything full force. So we decided to do that too. We got the energy for this fund raiser from our ardent wish to fulfill her dreams.”

The evening featured catered food from Harry’s Main Street Grille, a silent auction, a live auction and cautionary words from Towson University Professor Charles Conklin, who worked with Francesca on a project to clean up Maryland tributaries.

“We have to gather, as sincere individuals, to protect the resources we have and conserve so that our children’s children can enjoy the beauty of the land that we enjoy now,” Conklin said.

Ticket sales, donations, and auctioned items brought in more than $23,000 before expenses, Sergott said. Auction winners took home kayaks, Deep Creek Lake stays, Chesapeake Bay escapes, silk screened prints, handcrafted jewelry, and box seats at baseball games.

Many guests also took home a CD prepared by Francesca’s husband, Rob, which is filled with music by some of Francesca’s favorite groups: The Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Phish.

“Franny was the best friend I ever had. I knew her for 10 years,” said Laneicia Stone, of Houston, Texas. “After you met Franny, there was no way to avoid falling in love with her. She was an amazing person. It is my honor to come to the event.”

“The success of the event is overwhelming,” said Nicole Estes. “It’s nice to know that so many people loved Francesca, and that so many people love us.”

“It was a night filled with a lot of energy and a lot of love,” said Sergott.

“It was the night we all hoped it would be.”

Committee members who planned the event include: Dr. Susan Bollinger, Gary, Beth, and Jill Sergott, Suzannah Duvall, Dr. and Mrs. Niel Borrelli, Nicole Estes, Joe Beaver, and Audrey Cimino.