The defendant in the gray pinstripe suit greeted jurors with a smile as he stood in the Baltimore courtroom accused of murdering three teen-agers and his brother-in-law during a cocaine binge.
The trial of Ricardo "Carl" Burks, 31, opened in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday -- two weeks after he had been sentenced in Baltimore County to 40 years in prison for kidnapping and robbing a couple shortly after the four slayings.
An electrician and father of five children, Burks smiled at jurors and Judge Ellen L. Hollander during breaks in the proceedings. The tall defendant also threw kisses at his 3-month-old daughter, cradled in the arms of Burks' wife, Cynthia, in the second row.
Burks is charged with April 18 shootings of three teen-agers, reputed drug dealers, in a dispute over the quality of some crack cocaine. He's also charged with the murder of his brother-in-law, Marvin Willis 3rd, who allegedly lured the three young men into his Yale Avenue home after being burned in a drug deal.
Prosecutors said Burks led investigators to the bodies the the three teens -- Derrick L. Newman, 19, of the 500 block of Royal Oak Ave., Charles Jefferson Jr., 18, of the same address, and Joseph Austin, 15, of the first block of Walden Oak Court. The bodies had been wrapped in blankets and carpeting and dumped in a trash-strewn lot in Odenton.
Prosecutor Rex Schultz called the events surrounding the slayings "one tremendous catastrophe," which unfolded after Burks and Willis smoked "Ready Rock," a potent form of cocaine.
"All of this came to pass quite simply because of cocaine," he said.
Schultz, whose case is built around circumstantial evidence, said that on April 21 Burks kidnapped a couple in Owings Mills and took them on an 18-hour trip to Virginia and back.
Armed with Willis' 9mm pistol and a .38-caliber handgun which belonged to one of the dead teen-agers, Burks told the couple he "needed to get out of town," Schultz said. He was arrested April 22 in a Howard County motel where he was holding the couple.
Burks told police that Willis killed the teen-agers. In the statement, he admitted killing Willis in self defense, Schultz said. Two of the youths had been shot multiple times; another had been shot once in the head and stabbed 46 times.
Bridget Shepherd, a public defender, said Burks was a "church-going, family man" who "played around with cocaine." She said Burks and Willis "smoked up" all their crack during a cocaine binge the evening of April 18. Later, Willis got his pistol after they were sold some bad crack.
Burks told police that Willis lured the three teen-agers to his house and shot them. Burks dove in a corner and "freaked out," Shepherd said. "He was paralyzed in his disbelief that his world just caved in."
Burks shot and killed his brother-in-law in a fight after Willis referred to Burks as a "loose end," Shepherd said. "The only way to clean up loose ends is to kill them," Willis reportedly told Burks.
"It was a fight for his life," Shepherd said.