A Baltimore truck driver testified yesterday that he saw Eric Tirado, the man charged in the slaying of state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, driving a car the trooper pulled over on Interstate 95 just before he was fatally shot last March.
The driver, John Anderson, took the stand at a hearing on whether he should be allowed to testify at Tirado's trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday in Howard County Circuit Court. Tirado, 26, of the Bronx, N.Y., is charged with first-degree murder.
Mr. Anderson said he saw Tirado on a television news show last November -- and on another May 8 -- and recognized him as the driver of a light-colored Chevrolet with Virginia tags that Trooper Wolf stopped on I-95 north near Route 175 in the early hours of March 29, 1990.
The trucker said he had been driving a tractor-trailer on I-95 north that morning after making a fuel oil delivery in Washington. He said he was one lane over from the Chevrolet, which he estimated was traveling about 72 mph when it was stopped.
Mr. Anderson said the trooper, who the state maintains was Corporal Wolf, flashed a spotlight into the car, and it "lit up the passenger's face." He said he could not identify the other male passenger in the car.
He described the driver of the car as a man with olive-colored skin, in his 20s or early 30s, and who had short, curly black hair, bushy eyebrows and several days' growth of beard. He said the man appeared to be of Greek, Turkish or Hispanic background.
Mr. Anderson said he had continued north to Baltimore, where he refueled and made a second trip to Washington. On the return trip, he heard a radio report about the fatal shooting and stopped to tell state troopers what he had seen.
Mark Van Bavel, the attorney representing Tirado, is seeking to strike the testimony of Mr. Anderson, saying the state may have shown him photographs that created a suggestion in his mind that Tirado was the driver he saw that morning.
"If a person sees a likeness time and time again, he will get the message," Mr. Van Bavel told Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr.
The defense attorney closely questioned Mr. Anderson about a composite drawing that police assembled based on his description of the driver and a photo display of six people state police showed him a week after the shooting.
Mr. Anderson said he was shown six photographs of men of varied backgrounds but was unable to make a positive identification, although he said there "were several possibilities -- three or four looked like him, but I could not be 100 percent sure."
None of the photos was of Tirado.
Prosecutor Timothy Wolf said Tirado had not been a suspect when the photos were shown to the truck driver.
Judge Kane said he was withholding a ruling on the issue until after Mr. Von Bavel questions the state trooper who showed Mr. Anderson the photos, to determine if any influencing statements had been made.