An Army officer who shot three people at a Glenelg party in May was convicted Monday of second-degree murder by a Howard County jury, despite his attorney's insistence that someone else fired the fatal bullet.
Army clerk Jeffrey Louis Fowlkes, who told jurors he was only attempting to maintain the peace when he fired his gun during a fight at the party, also was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to murder and handgun violations. He faces a maximum of 105 years in prison.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Richard Winelander had urged the jury "not to guess" about Fowlkes' guilt and apologized that he had been unable to uncover an unknown man he claims is responsible for the killing.
"I wanted to find the killer, but I couldn't do it," Winelander said.
"I'm not Perry Mason."
The murder victim was Joseph T. Taylor, 21, of Cooksville, who was shot in the back moments after Fowlkes began firing several shots from a Smith & Wesson handgun he brought to the party in his car.
Winelander argued throughout the trial that at least one, if not several, other guns were fired at the scene. Witnesses for both the state and the defense testified that a shotgun blast was heard amid the sound of 9mm gunfire, although a shotgun was not seen or recovered.
"I had my investigator looking into this and we had all kinds of witnesses say that bullets were flying from all directions," Winelander said in an interview after the verdict. "I think the true shooter is still out there."
An appeal is expected to be made in the next two months, Winelander said.
The bullet that killed Taylor entered his back and exited through his neck. An FBI ballistics expert testified that it could not be conclusively proven that the wound was made by a 9mm bullet; however, a bullet fired from Fowlkes' gun was found several feet away from Taylor's body.
Prosecuting Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell found Winelander's argument of other shooters to be unfounded and labeled it an attempt to confuse jurors.
"This was not a gunfight at the OK Corral," she said. The one shotgun blast that was heard most likely came from a weapon carried by one of Fowlkes' friends and is a moot point since only one man at the party was injured by a shotgun pellet, O'Donnell said.
At the time of the shooting, Fowlkes was an Army specialist assigned to clerical duties at the Fort Lee Army base in Petersburg, Va. He is being held without bail at the Howard County Detention Center while awaiting a Jan. 29 sentencing.
Jury deliberations ended at 11:50 p.m. Monday after nearly 11 hours.
Fowlkes, 23, faces 30 years each for the murder charge and two counts of assault with intent to murder. He also was found guilty of three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony, which carries a maximum five-year jail term.
The party, conducted at the Brenda Burgess residence in the 13100 block of Triadelphia Road, was attended by nearly 200 people. Fowlkes, a former Baltimore City resident who was visiting the area for the weekend, fired the shots at the urging of several city residents who arrived with him, witnesses testified.
One witness reported Fowlkes fired the shots after one of his friends yelled, "Spray those country (expletive)," apparently in response to arguments that began at the party between the local residents and the city visitors.
"He had his wild buddies spurring him on, and he had some extra courage in his car," O'Donnell said, referring to the gun that Fowlkes admitted he always kept under his car seat.
"He wants to pretend now that he's a peacemaker," O'Donnell said in closing arguments. "The truth is, he was trying to be a big man that night.
He took the slightest opportunity to be a big man."
Taylor and two other men were shot. One of the other victims, William Shird of Baltimore, lost his spleen and a kidney due to the gunshot wound.
As for the shotgun that was never recovered, O'Donnell said "the only inference from that is that it went right back into one of those Baltimore City cars and went right back into Baltimore City."
The verdict of the seven-day trial came after a final day of testimony from Fowlkes' relatives and military superiors, who described the defendant as a fine Army soldier who seldom drank or became irritable.
On the night of the party, Fowlkes testified that he had drunk a large amount of cognac, vodka and beer and suffered from impaired judgment and poor motor coordination. The shots he fired, he said, were intended only as warnings and were meant to go over the heads of partygoers.
But due to alcohol intoxication, he said he unknowingly fired several shots "kind of low."
Fowlkes was arrested on Route 144 less than an hour after the shootings.
During his arrest, he expressed disbelief about the charges and labeled Howard County as "KKK territory," a police detective testified.