Once police determined Heather Lynn McGuire lay dead on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington, they knew they had to find her husband.
Philip Gilberti spent the days before McGuire’s March 13 death in and out of jail for violating a peace order that barred him from coming near McGuire. The peace order is one of five against Gilberti filed by McGuire and members of her family. The couple’s troubles were well known to police and domestic violence agencies, police say.
“It became immediately apparent he was our primary suspect ... that he was the one we were looking for,” said Montgomery County Police Department Assistant Chief Russell Hamill.
As police worked to collect evidence at the shooting scene at Connecticut and Knowles avenues, Usama “Sam” Haleem was returning to his Hallet Place home in Rockville. He discovered his back door had been kicked in. McGuire, 36, who according to court records had been staying with Haleem for fear of Gilberti, was gone.
Haleem said he thought Gilberti was still in jail Tuesday after being arrested twice on Saturday for stalking and harassing McGuire. He was released on Monday by a county District Court judge on the promise that he would attend an alcohol and drug abuse program.
“If I knew he wasn’t in jail, I never would have left,” said Saleem, who also took out a restraining order against Gilberti on Sunday.
Gilberti was found dead in the Rockville residence of an acquaintance about 12 hours after he shot McGuire, police say. Police believe he shot himself in the head with a rifle, possibly the same one he used to kill McGuire that morning. Montgomery County police Capt. Paul Starks said it will take weeks before they can make that determination.
Before TuesdayGilberti, 51, of Rockville attended Walter Johnson High School in 1977, said school system spokesman Dana Tofig. At that time, his name was Philip J. Holcomb, which court records show he changed to Gilberti in 1983.
For the next decade Gilberti was a professional boxer, friends say. In 1990 he fought for the state’s cruiserweight championship. Records of his boxing career end in 1995, when he was sentenced to three years in prison for battery and reckless endangerment in Montgomery County.
Peter Fedak, a Rockville attorney who has represented both Gilberti and members of his family, said he met the couple in 2004. The pair had three children since that time, adding to McGuire’s three from a previous relationship.
“Things were fine at first, they seemed happy,” he said.
Gilberti filed his first domestic violence complaint against McGuire in a Montgomery County District Court in 2005. In that order, he says she attacked him. Since that time McGuire, her mother, and the grandmother of her children not fathered by Gilberti have all filed peace orders against Gilberti. They all say he threatened to hurt them.
“He was a scary guy. He bullied people when he wanted to,” said Cherise Mullen of Silver Spring, whose brother is the father of three of McGuire’s children.
In McGuire’s most recent protective order, filed Nov. 8, she said Gilberti threatened to kill her if he found her with another man.
“And if you call the police on me I better be locked up for a long time cause I’ll be coming back for you,” Gilberti said, according to McGuire’s protective order.
Deane Shure, a friend of Gilberti’s and his former attorney, said Gilberti had an unpredictable temper.
“He had a really big heart, he loved his kids very much ... he was also a volatile guy, especially with her,” Shure said.
Although police say they believe Gilberti acted alone, the investigation into McGuire’s death will continue, Hamill said.
“We’re likely never going to have all the answers. We’re never going to hear what happened from Phil,” he said.