Jury convicts man in 2 out of 4 murder charges Same man will serve time for kidnapping

December 21, 1991|By Brian Sullam

A Maryland section article in Saturday's editions of The Sun reported incorrectly that Ricardo Burks was the brother-in-law of Marvin Willis 3rd. In fact, Burks, who was convicted of the second-degree murder of Mr. Willis, is married to the sister of Mr. Willis' girlfriend.

* The Sun regrets the error.

From his initial statement to police in April until his testimony on the witness stand earlier this week, Ricardo Burks, a soft-spoken electrician, stuck to his story:

Marvin Odell Willis 3rd, his brother-in-law, killed three youths in the basement of a Yale Heights row house April 19 after a night of bingeing on cocaine and crack. The next day, Burks said, he shot Mr. Willis in self-defense.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Yesterday, a Baltimore jury said it only believed part of Burks' story.

After three days of deliberations, the jury found Burks, a 31-year-old father of five children, guilty of second-degree murder in the deaths of Mr. Willis, 25, and one of the youths, Derrick Lamonte Newman, 19. The jury also convicted Burks of using a handgun in the Willis murder.

The jury acquited him of the more serious charges of first-degree murder in all four killings, and of all charges in the slayings of Charles "Chunky" Jefferson Jr., 18, and Joseph Christopher Alston, 15.

Burks -- already serving 40 years on his guilty plea in Baltimore County to charges of kidnapping a couple in Owings Mills and holding them hostage for two days after the murders -- showed

no emotion when the jury foreman delivered the

verdicts.

Burks faces maximum penalties of 30 years for each murder count and five years on the handgun conviction.

Public defender Bridget A. Shepard, who represented Burks, told Judge Ellen L. Hollander she would request a new trial at the sentencing hearing Jan. 29.

Burks testified that he and his brother-in-law spent the evening of April 18 and the early morning of Friday, April 19, smoking cocaine and crack.

Testifying in a very high-pitched but soft voice, Burks said they had made several trips to the corner of Parkton and Yale avenues in Southwest Baltimore to purchase drugs, but early that Friday morning they bought "a bad bag." Burks said that Mr. Willis wanted to return to the corner, find the seller and get his money back.

The two men never located the seller, Burks said, but they ran into three of Mr. Willis' "friends" and invited them over to Mr. Willis' house "to get high."

On the way down the stairs to the home's basement, Burks said, he heard someone yell out, "He's got a gun." Shots started ringing out, and Burks said he ducked behind a television set.

"The whole thing took seconds. . . . I remember smoke and gunpowder," he said.

The three youths were dead.

During the next several hours, Burks said, he and Mr. Willis made several trips out to purchase more crack, which they smoked in the basement alongside the bodies.

After borrowing a truck and dumping the bodies in an Odenton field Saturday morning, the pair returned to the house in Yale Heights.

Shortly after that, Burks said, Mr. Willis insulted him and the two started to fight. They wrestled for a semiautomatic pistol, and eventually Burks got control of the gun.

He fired at Mr. Willis and chased him upstairs into a dark dining room. Burks said he fired into the room but did not know whether the bullets struck Mr. Willis, who charged him. Burks said he fired again.

Burks said he then fled the house. After wandering around downtown most of the night, he took a bus to Owings Mills where he kidnapped Eric Sean Cada, 24, and Kimberly B. Goldscher, 22, in the parking lot of the Sinai Fitness Center on Painters Mill Road about 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Burks had them drive him to the King's Dominion amusement park in Virginia and then back to the Baltimore area. Burks was captured that Monday morning by Howard County police, who traced his movements through credit card purchases.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Rex Schultz offered an entirely different version.

There was no shootout in the basement; the three youths were killed because they had "fired up" some very potent heroin, and Mr. Willis and Burks decided they had to "clean up the mess," the prosecutor said.

Citing testimony from Dr. Ann T. Dixon, Maryland's deputy chief medical examiner, Mr. Schultz pointed out that Mr. Jefferson, even though he had gunshot wounds to his head, died from a massive dose of heroin. The Alston youth, who had eight gunshot wounds, also had a lethal dose of heroin, the medical examiner said.

Even though he had 46 stab wounds, Mr. Newman died from a gunshot wound to his head.

Schultz said Burks and Mr. Willis decided to kill the youths because the Yale Avenue house was a "stash" house for large amounts of drugs and they didn't want the police coming inside.

They first shot the Alston youth, who was probably alive but lapsing into unconsciousness, Mr. Schultz said.

Once Mr. Newman realized what was happening, he tried to leave and Mr. Willis began stabbing him with a kitchen knife. Mr. Newman, fighting for his life, was killed when Burks placed the semiautomatic pistol next to the man's temple and fired, according to Mr. Schultz.

To ensure that Mr. Jefferson was dead, they fired two shots into his head.

After dumping the bodies, Burks realized that Mr. Willis was a "loose end" who could implicate him and used the gun to kill Mr. Willis, the prosecutor argued.

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