OCEAN CITY — A longtime Ocean City police officer, who was instrumental in capturing the suspects in the most infamous case in resort history, was feted in retirement this week.
Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Sergeant Freddie Howard retired this week after 21 years of full-time service to the department. Howard began his career in Ocean City as a seasonal officer in 1994 and was hired as a full-time police officer in 1999. Over the decades, Howard ascended to the rank of sergeant and was responsible for helping shepherd the department through a time of great growth.
Howard was honored with a brief retirement ceremony at the start of Tuesday’s Mayor and Council work session. OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro praised Howard for his many accomplishments during his 21 years of full-time service to the Ocean City community.
“He has done an outstanding job for this community,” he said. “He served most of his career in the field. It’s a long time to mitigate problems and make lives a little better for so many. It’s really incredible when you think of how many interactions he had with people in dire circumstances. He is a selfless person dedicated to his job.”
During his career, Howard held several positions including patrol officer, K-9 handler, domestic violence investigator and police officer recruiter. He earned several awards over the years for his exemplary service including the Excellent Police Performance Award, Meritorious Service Award, Worcester County Commissioners Award and Neighborhood Watch Police Officer of the Year. He was also nominated for Police Officer of the Year for four consecutive years.
Despite his many accolades, Howard will likely be remembered by many for his role in the most horrific crimes in Ocean City history. Nearly 20 years ago on Memorial Day weekend, a Virginia couple visiting Ocean City went missing. A week later, Howard was the first to respond to a burglary at the former Hooter’s uptown in Ocean City and apprehended the two suspects, Benjamin and Erika Sifrit, as they were loading stolen merchandize into their vehicle.
The investigation revealed the Sifrits had lured the two missing suspects to their north-end penthouse condo and murdered them in cold blood before dismembering their bodies and dumping them in a landfill. To this day, many believe if it weren’t for the fast action of Howard at the burglary scene, the Sifrits might have gotten away with double-homicide. Burruro said as much on Tuesday during Howard’s retirement ceremony.
“Freddie was often in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “Such as it was with the Sifrit case. Both were taken into custody by the gentleman to my right. He responded to a burglary case and took them into custody. That was the most heinous crime in Ocean City history.”
Buzzuro said he could rest easy knowing Howard was out and about and on duty in his service to the town.
“In so many things he has done along the way, he has been the epitome of professionalism,” he said. “Just knowing he was out there made my job easier.”
Mayor Rick Meehan presented Howard with a key to the city and praised him for his service.
“It’s always bittersweet when we lose a longtime employee and friend,” he said. “It’s difficult, but at the same time we wish you the best in the future. Thank you for everything you’ve done for this community. Time goes by and you forget some of those things.”
For his part, Howard was humble in retirement.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege,” he said. “I want to thank the chief and the command staff for their leadership. I was also want to thank the Mayor and Council and the entire Ocean City community.”