The killer left no fingerprints, no identifying hairs or fibers.
Instead, he left a trail of purchases made with the victim's credit cards, said Howard County assistant state's attorney Christine Gage.
That paper trail will link Kevin Michael Briscoe to the April 1990 burglary and stabbing death of Pamela Mary Barker, 44, of Columbia, Ms. Gage said yesterday during opening arguments at Mr. Briscoe's trial in Howard County Circuit Court.
Ms. Gage said that Mr. Briscoe used the stolen credit cards to get a $3,300 cash advance and charged several purchases in Towson and Washington, D.C.
Mr. Briscoe, 26, of Columbia, was charged on May 7, 1990, with first-degree murder after police tracked him down through the credit card charges.
Ms. Barker, an employee of the Health Care Financing Administration, was found on April 23, 1990, in bed at her town house, with her throat slashed and a butcher knife embedded in her chest.
"It will become clear due to the credit card trail, who was involved in the murder of Penny Barker," Ms. Gage said.
The state is seeking a sentence of life without parole in the case.
Also charged in the killing were Brian Jordan of Jessup, scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 24, and Temesgen Melaku, who pleaded guilty last March to second degree murder in the case. His sentencing is pending.
In the Briscoe trial, Melaku is expected to testify that he drove Mr. Jordan and Mr. Briscoe to Ms. Barker's house in the 9700 block of Basket Ring Road.
Mr. Briscoe's attorney, Craig Gendler, conceded that his client made unauthorized purchases using Ms. Barker's credit cards, but said that does not prove he murdered her. "The question you will have to ask is how do you get from the use of the credit cards into the house," Mr. Gendler asked the jury. "Why would a man who just committed a heinous murder go out and use credit cards and sign his own name?"
Mr. Gendler also attacked the credibility of Melaku, saying he agreed to testify against Mr. Briscoe to avoid a life sentence.