Killer's conviction falls short for state Prosecutor wanted more than second degree verdict.

October 04, 1991|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Evening Sun Staff

A prosecutor expressed disappointment over a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury's decision to convict Harvey Allen Teets of second-degree murder the death of Kimberly R. Kenna, a St. Timothy's School security guard.

"I'm not sure what the jury was thinking," Stephen Bailey, assistant state's attorney, said yesterday after the verdict. "This was a clear case of first-degree murder."

Teets, 28, was convicted of fatally beating the 23-year-old Kenna with a club that he kept in his car in the early morning hours of Feb. 23. Drunk and high on cocaine, according to testimony, Teets removed her pants and underwear then dumped her half-naked body in a pond 20 feet from the guard shack where she worked.

The jury of four women and eight men deliberated for nearly five hours before reaching the verdict. The state had hoped for a conviction of first-degree murder, which would have carried a maximum sentence of life without parole. The second-degree murder conviction shows that the jury was not convinced that Kenna's murder was premeditated.

In closing arguments yesterday, defense attorney Patricia L. Chappell countered the state's request for a first-degree murder conviction by saying that the state's case was flawed by bad testimony. "The state is asking you to convict Harvey Teets on the testimony of liars," she said.

Judge Alfred L. Brennan Sr. did not set a sentencing date, granting Chappell's request for time to obtain psychological testimony pertaining to Teets. Teets faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

During his closing arguments, Assistant County State's Attorney Terrence J. King outlined the events that he said would prove Teets had premeditatedly and willfully murdered Kenna, who lived at the school at the time of her death.

Testimony from police revealed that Kenna was beaten into unconsciousness inside the shack, dragged outside, struck again, dragged further and struck several more times before her body was dumped in the pond.

"Wouldn't that have taken him some time to move her?" King asked the jury.

Each time he moved Kenna's body, King said, Teets had an opportunity to stop. And each time he didn't stop, King said, Teets reaffirmed his desire to kill her.

Police and school officials testified that Teets had been known to spend nights in his car near the school's campus. And Fred Cortright, director of security at St. Timothy's, said that Kenna regularly worked the 6 p.m.-7 a.m. shift on weekends.

"The night Kim was killed [Teets] knew she was there," King told the jury. "He knew she would be alone in that guard shack late at night."

Testimony from Michael V. Marinaro, a forensic chemist at the State Police crime lab, revealed that samples of the victim's blood matched samples taken from bloodstains on the wooden club that police found in Teets' car and on a pair of Teets' work boots.

And David Lotridge, a former cellmate of Teets who testified that Teets confessed to murdering Kenna while in jail awaiting trial, knew too much about the crime to be trying to lie his way out of jail, King said.

"He testified to things that he had no way of knowing other than the killer telling him," King said. "And a lot of testimony he gave was corroborated by other witnesses."

But in her closing arguments, Chappell called it "a case of reasonable doubt if there ever was one."

Further blood tests that would have proven that the bloodstains on Teets' boots was not that of Kenna, were never performed by chemists, she said. "The pieces of the puzzle just do not add up.

"The state had a big problem until David Lotridge appeared on the scene," Chappell said, referring to the fact that police recovered no murder weapon following an initial search of Teets' car.

A second search of Teets' car by police produced the club, which Lotridge testified that Teets told him he hid in a woodpile on campus after killing Kenna, and retrieved only after the car was searched the first time.

Chappell called Lotridge, "a desperado so clever that he would make up this scene to get himself out of jail."

Willie Green, a former co-worker of Teets, also testified that he had seen the club in the car on several occasions, but that he didn't see it when he rode in Teets' car a few days after the murder.

Chappell called the testimony of Lotridge and Green lies, reminding jurors that Lotridge admitted during testimony to having previously lied to police. Green lied when he denied using cocaine with Teets on the night of the murder, Chappell said.

Detectives testified that none of Teets' fingerprints were lifted from the scene of the crime, nor were there any bloody footprints found that could be linked to Teets.

But assistant state's attorney Stephen Bailey said that there was no doubt that the blood on Teets' boots and on the club found in his car was "consistent with Kim's blood.

"What's [Teets] running around with someone's blood on his boots and a bloody club in his car?" Bailey asked jurors. "Sleeping in the vicinity of the school . . . he knew Kim was going to be there."

And "everything that David Lotridge says is backed up" by other witnesses, Bailey said. "You can't dispute it."

Bailey admitted that there were some questions about Kenna's murder that would remain unanswered.

"Why Kim?" he asked jurors. "Why single out Kim Kenna? Why beat her the way he beat her? . . . There is no answer."

Bailey raised the question of why Kenna hadn't locked herself into the shack that night. If she had locked it, he speculated, she might have had time to grab her radio to call for help.

But the state couldn't call Kenna as a witness, Bailey said, pointing at Teets, "because that man crushed her skull.

"It's time to find the defendant guilty of the murder of Kimberly Kenna," he said.

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