Trial Of Mcmains Examines Motives In Double Slayin

Lawyers Debate Premeditation, Pcp Influence

October 16, 1991|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

On Jan. 13, Melvin L. McMains, a 37-year-old-auto mechanic and former Marine, shot his girlfriend nine times, then stabbed her 7-year-oldson 40 times, claiming the boy was the Antichrist.

This account was not disputed by either the prosecution or the defense as McMains' trial began in Howard Circuit Court yesterday. At issue is whether McMains planned the killings, as the state claims, or whether the deaths of Caria and Christopher Roth resulted from McMains' PCP-induced delusions.

The trial began with a shaky start as McMains announced to the jury: "I've been forced to use this counsel. This cannot be a fair trial; they have no defense."

Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. told McMains that he would be removed from the courtroom or bound and gagged if he disrupted the proceedings again.

During pretrial hearings two weeks ago, McMains asked for a new attorney because he wasn'tsatisfied with his lawyer from the public defender's office. Sybert denied his request.

McMains is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the early Sunday morning killings at the Whiskey Bottom apartment complex in North Laurel. The state, which is seeking the death penalty, must show that McMains' actions were not spontaneous but willful and deliberate to prove first-degree murder.

McMains has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"The whole scenario is so bizarre, so delusional that you won't have any trouble picking up on instances that he was high on PCP, that he was messed up, that he didn'tknow what he was doing," said Assistant Public Defender Anthony Lyons, who is representing McMains.

"If it hadn't been for his ingestion of that drug, we wouldn't be here today," Lyons told the jury.

In her opening statment, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell said that despite smoking PCP, or phencyclidine hydrochloride, and marijuana before the killings, McMains made a decision to carry out the murders.

"Melvin McMains was a man with a temper, an ex-Marine, a college graduate," O'Donnell said. "He had a plan. He was deliberate in what he did."

Selecting a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun from among the many weapons he kept in his apartment, McMains repeatedly shot 30-year-old Caria Roth before stabbing her son to death, O'Donnell said.

McMains then showered, changed and asked a neighbor to call the police. He met the police at the door saying, "I have sinned," O'Donnell told the jury.

When the officers asked if anyoneelse was in the apartment, McMains said, "Yes. No. . . . I've killedthem all."

During questioning, police found McMains to be alert and cooperative, O'Donnell said.

Lyons emphasized McMains' PCP use in describing the events leading up to the murders. He said that a week before the killings, McMains and Roth smoked PCP together and hallucinated that they were frozen in a snow bank in Russia. A few days later, Lyons said, McMains imagined he was in a "duel with the devil" while he was at work at the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

On the night of Jan. 12, while Roth was at her bar-tending job, Lyons said McMains read from the Bible to Christopher until the boy went to bed. When Roth came home at 4:30 a.m., she and McMains smoked PCP and marijuana while watching a religious television show.

McMains walked into the bedroom, Lyons said, and "was struck by a lighting bolt" that Christopher was the Antichrist and must be killed. But he realized that Roth wouldn't allow him to kill her son, Lyons said.

Fearing Roth was going to kill him, McMains retrieved a gun from the bedroom and fired five shots into the hallway, Lyons said. He wentinto the living room and shot Roth, then reloaded and fired more shots.

He found a double-edged knife and stabbed Christopher, who hadjust awakened, Lyons said.

After the killings, McMains became convinced that the preacher on the television show was presiding over his trial. Naked, McMains watched television and heard the preacher say, "You're born again for the third time,' " Lyons said.

Shortly after police arrived, McMains began to recite the Lord's Prayer, Lyons said.

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