The couple moved two years ago from a townhouse in Columbia to a two-story house - one of the few detached homes tucked amid sprawling developments of townhouses and apartment complexes on Johnnycake Road - "to have a big house for the kids," Danielle Fleming, 27, said through tears.
Johnson described Warren Fleming as an excellent young entrepreneur.
"When you look at the world of retail, it's a very difficult industry, not to enter into but to be successful in," she said. "Warren had not only the courage and wherewithal to enter this most competitive industry, but he was successful."
Fleming opened his Cingular Wireless store about five years ago with a temporary, short-term lease to test the retail waters at the mall, Johnson said.
With his business doing well, he converted his lease to a long-term agreement.
"He has grown along with us," Johnson said. "He was a role model, we hoped, for other African-Americans to enter the business."
Fleming's wife said he wanted to run his own business "because he loved selling." He opened the Security Square Mall store after selling cell phones for two years at Radio Shack. Fleming also owned a Cingular Wireless store in Catonsville, she said.
Johnson, who said she knew Fleming from her frequent interactions with the mall's merchants, said he had an easy way with people that attracted repeat customers.
"He was dynamic, a bright light," she said. "When you met him, you felt like either you had met him before or he was a longtime friend." Employees at other stores in the mall said they routinely saw Fleming on Thursdays.
"He was a very decent guy," said Sunny Panjwani, manager of Gold Valley, a jewelry shop that neighbors Fleming's store.
Mall owners added $25,000 to the $2,000 reward typically offered through Metro Crime Stoppers for information leading to arrests in the case. Anyone with information can call 866-7-LOCKUP.
Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt, Josh Mitchell and Nick Shields contributed to this article.