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Deaths in 2005

2005 Year in Review

Shohreh Zahra Seyed-Makki, 54, was found dead in her home in the 9500 block of Newbridge Drive at around 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 6.

Police labeled the death a homicide — the eighth in Potomac since 1990 and the first since Marianne Oweiss was killed a mile away in 2001.

Police have no one in custody and have identified no current suspects in the murder. Seyed-Makki was apparently strangled and beaten in her kitchen, but few details about the crime are available while it is still under investigation.

On Oct. 9, police arrested Seyed-Makki’s son Mark Makki, 23, and charged him with robbery and first-degree murder, but days before Makki’s scheduled Nov. 4 preliminary hearing, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Montgomery County dropped the charges, saying there was insufficient evidence for an indictment.

Seyed-Makki was a gentle woman who loved to entertain guests and to walk and jog in her neighborhood, friends said. She sometimes worked in the medical offices of her husband Khosrow “Mike” Makki, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon.

The Makki family is well known in the tight-knit Iranian community in Washington, but was otherwise fairly private, friends and neighbors said.

THREE YOUNG people are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery following the July 17 killing of Bijan Nassirdaftari, 17, of Rockville in an apparent drug purchase gone awry.

Nassirdaftari was a 2005 Gonzaga High School graduate, and lived on Plantation Lane, near I-270 between Montrose Road and Tuckerman Lane.

According to police and District Court charging documents, Nassirdaftari and three friends met the three suspects — Michael Manaugh, 18, of Silver Spring, Ricardo Thomas, 20, of Washington, D.C., and Ardele Monkkonen, 18, of Washington, D.C. — on Rockville Pike with the intention of buying one pound of marijuana from Manaugh.

It was a set-up.

Manaugh had no intention of providing the drugs, according to police spokeswoman Lucille Baur and tried to rob Nassirdaftari, leading to a struggle. Nassirdaftari apparently broke free but was shot in the back of the head, according to police and court documents.

TIME MAGAZINE journalist Hugh Sidey, who lived on Stanmore Drive in Potomac Falls for close to 40 years, died of an apparent heart attack Nov. 21 while eating dinner in Paris. He was 78.

He is survived by his wife Anne Sidey, three daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.

In more than four decades at Time, Sidey covered 10 presidents, beginning with Dwight Eisenhower. He treated his subjects as people and not infallible leaders and he treated his contemporaries the same way.

“He wasn’t the typical investigative reporter style, at least the type that you see in the movies,” said Sidey’s brother, Edwin Sidey, 80. “He had respect I think for all of those people that he covered, whether they were high and mighty or low, ordinary people. He appreciated the good qualities in people, and even in presidents.”

Sidey grew up Greenfield, Iowa (population 2,129), where his family has run the Greenfield Adair County Free Press for five generations.

He served in the Army in World War II but was not deployed overseas and began submitting work to Time and Life while working as a reporter in Omaha, Neb., in the 1950s.

Life hired him in 1955. He began covering the presidency in 1957 and later moved to Time, where he was a White House correspondent, Washington bureau chief and contributing editor.

He wrote more than 1,000 articles and columns, most famously "The Presidency," which he started in Life in 1966.

GLORIA HALPERN, a certified public accountant and a professor of accounting at Montgomery College, died in a highway accident near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Feb. 11 at the age of 56.

“Her personification of dignity, integrity, excellence and hard work … made all of us better people, and the college a better place,” said Nancy Weiner, one of Halpern’s colleagues at Montgomery College.

“Gloria was a surrogate mother to all of our children,” said Gail Robinson, a neighbor from the College Gardens neighborhood in Potomac. “This week, all of our children lost a mother, too.”

Gloria Halpern is survived by husband Mel Halpern of Potomac; her daughter, Dr. Jennifer Moore of Brentwood, Tenn.; her son Jeff Halpern, a National Hockey League player and captain of the Washington Capitals; her parents Morton and Helen Klein of Coconut Creek, Fla.; and her sister Marilyn Smith.

“She was very proud that one [of her children] became a doctor, and the other became a professional athlete,” Mel Halpern said.

Gloria and Mel Halpern grew close with their fellow hockey parents in the Washington area, at a time when local options for high-level club ice hockey were limited. Later, when Jeff Halpern attended Princeton University, the Princeton parents became quick friends, and they continued to meet regularly after their sons graduated.

“Thank you for giving me every opportunity in life,” Gloria’s daughter Jenny Moore said at the funeral. “I hope you can see right now … that the way you have lived your life … has not gone unnoticed.”

Montgomery College established the Gloria Halpern Scholarship and Assistance Fund in her memory.

JUDITH SCIOLI, former editor of the Potomac Almanac and press secretary to County Executive Neal Potter (D) and then to Gov. Parris Glendening (D), died on Jan. 19 at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia at the age of 59 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with breast cancer.

“She treated everyone with respect and dignity,” said Judi Scioli’s son Anthony Scioli, an attorney living in Lincoln, Neb. “She touched so many different lives, not just governors, but congressional staff, her secretaries and her coworkers and staff as well.”

“I cannot tell you how special she was,” said Mary Kimm, publisher of the Connection Newspapers, who was hired by Scioli as a reporter for The Potomac Almanac in 1989. “If you met her for five minutes, you would know you were in the presence of someone who was going to make a difference.”

Scioli began her career as a reporter for the Potomac Almanac in 1980. By the early 1990s, she was vice president for editorial of Connection Newspapers, parent company of the Potomac Almanac.

Esther Gelman was a member of County Council in Scioli’s early years with The Almanac. “I think she was as fair as she could be,” Gelman said. “She wasn’t looking for dirt. She was looking for her story, and she wanted her story straight. … I think she was a real professional, a class lady and a great reporter.”

In 1992, Scioli made the transition from journalism to politics when she accepted the position as Montgomery County’s Director of Public information. “The job was to get the facts out in an understandable manner,” Potter said. “That’s a very useful service, to get them out to the public. … I was very grateful to her for taking it on.”

Scioli later served as press secretary for former University of Maryland chancellor Don Langenberg, before accepting a position as press secretary for Glendening (D) in 1995.

“She brought those same beliefs of quality carrying the day as she had back here in Potomac,” said Del. Jean Cryor (R-15), who said she was in competition with Scioli for nearly two decades, first as a newspaper editor with the Potomac Gazette, then as a politician in a different political party. “As the press secretary, she was open and agreeable and kind and thoughtful, which is not necessarily what one expects in a press secretary.”

Scioli worked for Glendening until 1998 when she accepted a position as director of communications for the Maryland Port Authority. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2002, but kept working full-time through April 2003. Scioli was fired from her position in May 2003 along with other Democratic state government appointees removed by the administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R).

Scioli spent many of her later months working on a novel based on her experience as an appointee in Maryland’s state government.

“Even when she was dying, in her last few weeks, she was asking about other people,” said her son Anthony Scioli.

THE BODY OF Dr. Scott Nathan LaBaer was found in the Potomac River near Pennyfield Lock three weeks after the 39-year-old disappeared March 28.

LaBaer was reported missing after he did not arrive for afternoon appointments that day. His abandoned car was found on River Road at Petit Way March 29.

LaBaer suffered from depression and the condition is considered a factor in the circumstances of his death, an apparent suicide.

Eugene Roesser, a volunteer firefighter, is also a friend and co-worker of LaBaer's wife, Michelle LaBaer.

Roesser said that LaBaer had been functioning and apparently happy for a long time but went for psychiatric help about a week before his disappearance.

As a doctor, he might have felt inadequate to help his patients when he needed help himself, Roesser said.

“There’s a big stigma attached to the whole thing,” Roesser said of depression. “I don’t know what all the answers are but I do know that there’s a big problem with depression.”

LaBaer is survived by his wife Michelle LaBaer and his infant twins.

ALEXANDER Chaufornier, 18, died at home in Potomac on May 11, weeks before he was set to graduate from Winston Churchill High School. He died in his sleep, but the exact circumstances of the death have not been made public.

Friends and family described Alex as quiet, loyal and loving.

“He was just the definition of a life-long best friend for me,” said Patrick Johnson, a senior at Walt Whitman High School. Johnson’s mother and Nancy Chaufornier were friends while pregnant with their sons, and the boys were friends ever since being born just two months apart.

“I never had a fight with him. Never. I knew him for 17 years and I never, ever had a fight with him. Not even a little one,” Johnson said.

Alex was an avid skateboarder and a talented photographer. He loved his car, and working with computers and other gadgets. When friends needed something fixed, they took it to Alex. He had planned to attend Montgomery College and then perhaps try to move into an engineering program at a four-year university.

Underneath his quiet façade, Alex had a goofy, mischievous sense of humor and often tried to cheer up friends when they were sick or upset, acquaintances said.

Alex is survived by his father Roger L. Chaufornier, his mother Nancy Chaufornier, his brothers Roger A. Chaufornier, 20, Nicholas, 14, and Lucas, 12, and his sister Eliza, 5.

Nearly 300 people attended his funeral May 17.

JULIE NAGEL, 19, died in a car accident while driving back to her North Potomac home for fall break in North Carolina on Oct. 8. A 2004 graduate of Thomas Wootton High School, Nagel was captain of the field hockey and lacrosse teams, and she played for the Division I field hockey team at Appalachian State (Boone, N.C.), where she was a sophomore.

“She was just larger than life and always had a smile on her face,” said Lauren Diederich, Nagel’s older sister. “She loved every second of her life.”

“People were just drawn to her,” said Shelly Pine, a longtime friend of the Nagels. “She was both a lot of fun and very dedicated.”

One of Julie’s friends recalled her signature greeting when she met somebody new — “Hi, I’m Julie Nagel, what’s your name?” Another friend described her as somebody who would got to a 7-Eleven and come out with snacks, drinks and a new friend in the cashier.

“She had the personality where she knew everybody,” said Steve Swift, who coached Julie on the Wootton field hockey team. “Teachers knew her, custodians knew her, security guards knew her.”

Julie is survived by her parents Jim and Susan, her sisters Lauren and Kelly, and grandparents Fred and Annette Nagel and Joyce and Bill Jackson.

An overflow group of Julie’s family, friends, teachers, coaches and classmates from Wootton and Appalachian attended her funeral at River Road Unitarian Church.

ROBERT LAVELL, a conservationist and resident of Potomac for nearly 50 years, died of congestive heart failure at the age of 83 on June 2. An economist by profession, Lavell was better known in the area for his passionate support of conservation causes.

Lavell is survived by his wife Mary Lavell. “It’s been a wonderful life,” she said. “He was enthusiastic about things, and he brought enthusiasm out of others.”

Lavell was part of three landings in the South Pacific as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Born and raised in Cincinnati, he met Mary, a Texas native, in the Washington D.C. area during wartime. The couple moved to Potomac nearly 50 years ago, and built their own home on Logan Drive, where they still resided at the time of his death.

Lavell served as a board member with the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Potomac Conservancy and the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, and he was an interim president of the Audubon Society for one year. Fellow members remembered him as a quietly effective leader.

“He was the perfect spokesman. … There wasn’t any question of him compromising,” said Ginny Barnes, now president of West Montgomery.

“He was very good at talking to people in [a way] that made kids comfortable and adults comfortable,” said Diana Conway, a member of West Montgomery. Conway’s three children enjoyed going to Lavell’s pond and hearing him talk about the creatures that inhabited it.

“He never talked too much [but] he knew just what the issue was. I loved that about him,” Barnes said.