Eric Tirado, one of two New York men charged in the slaying of a Maryland state trooper, was ordered yesterday to stand trial on first-degree murder and other charges April 17 in Howard County Circuit Court.
Prosecutor Dwight S. Thompson has said he will seek the death penalty for Tirado, 26, and co-defendant Francisco Rodriguez, 20, both of the Bronx. They are charged with killing Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, who was shot March 29 after stopping a car on Interstate 95 in Jessup about 3:45 a.m.
Rodriguez will be tried separately because he must first face trial in federal District Court in Virginia on charges that he was part of a major drug ring that brought crack cocaine from New York for sale in Maryland, Washington and Virginia.
He was among 18 people indicted in the case Nov. 1. Among them were his cousin, Oswaldo Rodriguez of Arlington, Va., who remains a fugitive and is believed to be the head of the ring, said Christine Wright, an assistant U.S. attorney.
She said Francisco Rodriguez distributed and transported drugs for a "massive" organization that brought more than 25 kilograms of crack into the area every week in cars customized with hidden compartments.
Tirado, a short, trim man with a beard, appeared yesterday wearing glasses and prison denims. He pleaded innocent and his only other comment was "No, I do not," when Judge James B. Dudley asked if he needed an interpreter. In addition to the murder charge, Tirado is accused of armed robbery in the theft of Corporal Wolf's traffic citation book, being an accessory to murder and robbery, and handgun violations.
An affidavit filed by a state police investigator, Sgt. R. L. Scruggs, said the charred citation book was found behind a Lansdowne convenience store near a car that police believe was used by the gunmen.
Fingerprints found inside and outside the Chevrolet Nova, which had been stolen from a woman in Alexandria, Va., a day earlier, matched those of Tirado and Francisco Rodriguez, the affidavit said.
Blood found on the passenger side's door frame of the light blue Nova was the same type O blood as that of Corporal Wolf, the affidavit said.
Tirado and Rodriguez were sentenced April 11 by a Bronx judge to one to three years for weapons violations.
Tirado has been held in the Maryland state prison system in lieu of $1 million bail since he was brought here last month from the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, N.Y.
Rodriguez is being held in federal prison in Alexandria, Va., pending his trial Jan. 28 in federal District Court there.