Homeless Man Not Guilty Of Shooting At Body Shop Owner

July 21, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Barry M. Dentler is on the street and homeless.

And he couldn't be happier.

His last real home -- a 1982 Ford Van -- sits in storage with twoflat tires and windows broken.

But Dentler, 45, will settle for anywhere other than where he's been the past eight months: the CarrollCounty Detention Center.

Late Friday afternoon, Dentler was released from jail when a Circuit Court jury found him not guilty of attempted murder after a four-day trial.

"He's looking forward to getting out," said Public Defender Edward T. Barry, Dentler's attorney.

"And he's looking forward to a soda pop," Barry said of a beverage Dentler couldn't get in jail.

In the early hours of Nov. 21, Dentler was arrested by state police and charged with trying to murder Leonard H. Medicus of Westminster with a .25-caliber handgun.

Medicus,35, owner of Lennie's Body Shop and Auto Repair at 2451 Baltimore Blvd. in Finksburg, testified that he was working at his desk about 2:30 a.m. when Dentler entered the shop.

A Vietnam veteran, Dentler pointed the gun at Medicus and fired, but missed when Medicus ducked, the body shop owner testified.

However, Dentler said he was asleepin his van about 200 feet away in the parking lot of a High's at thetime. Dentler, who lived in the van, argued that he was the victim of a "setup" designed by Medicus.

The events on Nov. 21 climaxed a souring of relations between the two men that began several months earlier. Medicus allowed Dentler, who was homeless at the time, to parkhis van at the body shop and live there and work on the engine.

But in the ensuing weeks, the friendship deteriorated, becoming markedby suspicion, threats and accusations.

Dentler, who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of his war service, admitted to spreading rumors that Medicus, who's married and has two children, was having an affair with a neighborhood woman. Medicus, meanwhile, accused Dentler of stealing tools.

The body shop owner eventually had police remove Dentler from the property.

"Seems like 'Days of Our Lives,' " Barry told the jury.

After Dentler's arrest, police found a slug and a shell casing on the floor of the body shop office and an apparent bullet hole in the wall near the desk. A search ofthe van turned up a .25-caliber handgun in a toolbox under the passenger seat. Marijuana also was found.

Two ballistics experts testified that tests showed the slug came from the gun found in Dentler's van. But questions were raised about whether such a shot would producethe bullet hole or result in a slug lying on the floor.

Subsequent test firings in the office pierced the wall -- including layers of wood, paneling, dry-wall and insulation.

"That bullet couldn't have made that hole," said defense witness William Welsh, a former statepolice firearms specialist.

"Whatever went into that wall stayed there."

Acquaintances of both men said they heard Medicus talk of setting up Dentler by planting a gun or drugs in the van. Medicus testified that he'd said such things in jest.

Witnesses also testified Medicus displayed a bag of marijuana, but he maintained it was a bag of tea that he kept in his office.

Dentler also faced one count each of assault, possession of adeadly weapon with intent to injure, carrying a handgun, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. The jury, composed of six men and six women, acquitted Dentler on all six charges after about two hours' of deliberation.

"Obviously I'm frustrated, but that's the way the system works," saidAssistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III. "The jury had a difficult task. It was a complex case."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.