Testimony begins in trial of murdered couple's son Prosecutors say he hated parents

January 09, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons

John George Dietz III wept yesterday as a prosecutor told a Baltimore County jury how police found his adoptive parents beaten, stabbed and shotgunned at close range in their Woodlawn home.

The 28-year-old son faces a possible death sentence if convicted on charges of murdering John George Dietz Jr., 63, and Lillian Ann Dietz, 62, early Oct. 25, 1990.

The couple were found dead three days later in their bedroom on their horse farm in the 7700 block of Inwood Avenue, off Johnnycake Road near Patapsco Valley State Park.

John Dietz vehemently denies the charges, said defense attorney Leslie A. Stein.

But after a jury was selected, Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry Jr. said the defendant was motivated by hatred for his parents, who had thrown him out of their home. He also was greedy for his inheritance because he was obsessed with a woman he'd met that August, Mr. Gentry told the court.

After the slayings, the girlfriend cooperated with Baltimore County police, wearing a body wire to tape a conversation with Mr. Dietz, who was the focus of their investigation.

Gentry began his opening statement dramatically, reciting a statement from that recording that he'd also written out and mounted on an easel for the jury to read:

'I heard that there's a very powerful force in all of us. There's a dark side in all of us. And it's never getting out again.'

"These are not the words of a poet, a theologian, a philosopher or Stephen King," Mr. Gentry told the jurors.

"These are the words of John George Dietz III . . . Nov. 12, 1990, in a conversation with his girlfriend."

There are no fingerprints or confessions in the case, the prosecutor continued, but there is evidence.

In addition to statements by the defendant to many people about his hatred for his parents and threats to kill them, Mr. Gentry said there was no forced entry and nothing was taken from the home but a 12-gauge shotgun and the couple's red Chevrolet Camaro. An elaborate alarm system on the property ** had been bypassed.

The car was found abandoned and untampered with in a nearby apartment complex that could be reached by footpaths from the farm.

Mr. Gentry said the victims' skulls had been fractured, they had been stabbed and shot at such close range that the sheets contained powder and their bodies had wadding from the shotgun shells.

As the prosecutor described the bloody scene yesterday, the pale, red-haired defendant covered his face with his hands and began to cry.

When the prosecutor had finished, Mr. Stein suggested that the jury "take a deep breath" because "you can smell death in the air: the horrible and unfortunate deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Dietz, and the potential death of this young man right over here."

Defense attorney Stein said the prosecution has no proof that Mr. Dietz was in his parents' home -- and "they tried mightily."

He cited hours of wiretap recordings that failed to produce a confession.

The defendant had never been arrested, Mr. Stein said, and nothing in his background suggested that he could reach the age of 27 and suddenly commit "the most horrific crime: the killing of his parents."

The supposed death threats were four or five years old, he said, and didn't stop the Dietzes from keeping their son in their will, not only as an equal heir with their adopted daughter but as executor of their estate.

The defense lawyer noted that Mr. Dietz's girlfriend had been a caretaker at the farm -- dismissed for keeping the place like "a pigsty" -- who also knew about the alarm system, and where car and house keys were kept.

A friend of the victims and their new caretaker began the testimony yesterday afternoon. Both women said they became concerned when they couldn't get an answer at the couple's door or by telephone, or locate them through their daughter in Buffalo, N.Y.

The friend, Elizabeth C. Gallant of Catonsville, said she talked to the couple the night of Oct. 24 and made arrangements to go to Frederick the next morning to get cornstalks for a big Halloween display they were planning.

When they didn't pick her up, she began calling and stopping by the house, Mrs. Gallant testified. She sobbed as she recounted how her fears mounted from Friday morning until Sunday, when she and the caretaker called the police -- who broke into the home and discovered the bodies.

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