On the day she was killed, 12-year-old Andrea L. Perry, known as "Fatty Poo" because she was a chubby baby, heard nothing but compliments about her new hairstyle.
"She liked it and she couldn't wait to go to school to show her friends," said Andrea's 20-year-old sister, Donilla Burrell, the first witness to testify in the Baltimore Circuit Court trial of Eugene Dale, who is accused of raping and murdering Andrea.
On the morning that Andrea was supposed to show off her new perm -- Oct. 13, 1988 -- her body was found in an trash-strewn alley in the 1800 block of W. Baltimore St. She had been shot
once in the back of the head.
Dale faces sentences of death in the gas chamber or life without parole if convicted. The trial resumes today before Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe.
At Harlem Park Middle School, Andrea was on the lacrosse team and the cheerleading squad, prosecutor Donald J. Giblin said during opening statements yesterday. She sang in a church choir.
"She was the type of young lady anyone would be proud to call their daughter," Giblin said. "Today this vibrant little girl is simply a memory."
Dale allegedly raped and murdered her to "satisfy his lust for her," Giblin told the jury, and then left her body in the alley "like yesterday's garbage."
Giblin told the seven women and five men of the jury that soon after Andrea was killed, Dale conjured up the first of several accounts he would give about what happened that evening. First, he told the woman he lived with, Roslyn Johnson, that he saw a man and a woman drag a little girl into the alley while he was out running an errand. "I didn't want to get involved," Giblin quoted Dale as telling Johnson.
The next morning, Dale stopped Darryl Sydnor on Baltimore Street and told him he heard a gunshot the night before and that there was a body in the alley, Giblin said. Dale also told detectives that he was walking to his grandmother's home when an old lady told him there was a body in the alley.
After detectives armed with a search warrant recovered a .32-caliber revolver from a closet in Dale's home, he told 'N detectives that a couple of guys who wanted to "scare somebody" had borrowed the gun, Giblin said. Dale also told investigators that he saw Johnson's brother enter the alley with the girl and then heard a gunshot.
Giblin said investigators recovered sperm from Perry and, through genetic tests conducted by an upstate New York laboratory, linked it to a sample of Dale's blood.
Defense lawyer M. Cristina Gutierrez said detectives and prosecutors on the Dale case "took the roads that would only lead to Eugene Dale because they didn't take the time." She described Dale as being mentally retarded and said he never passed the most basic proficiency exams in school.
And Gutierrez hinted at what may be a principal defense strategy: challenging the use of the Life Codes Corp. in New York to do the laboratory work on the DNA samples.
"What you will hear about is not science and not truth . . ., " she said, holding up a copy of Life Codes' marketing package. "They called up a business. They didn't call up scientists. It's a Fortune 500 company. It is big business. It's not about the truth. It's about money."
Burrell testified that Andrea had her hair permed the night she was killed. Her godmother scraped together some money to pay for the hairdo. Burrell said she was visiting her boyfriend the night of Oct. 12 and Andrea walked her to a bus stop at Baltimore Street and Fulton Avenue. That was the last time she saw her sister alive.
Ella Thompson, Andrea's mother, said she frantically searched for daughter around her school, her neighborhood and the home of friends. She learned of her daughter's death Oct. 13 when she called the medical examiner's office after watching a television news report about a body found just two blocks from her home.