Jury deadlocks after 13 hours in trial of John Dietz Murder victims' son awaits retrial

January 22, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

A Baltimore County jury declared itself deadlocked yesterday BTC over whether John George Dietz III beat, shot and stabbed his parents in October 1990 at their horse farm near Patapsco State Park.

Only a faint look of relief crossed the features of the pale, red-haired 28-year-old defendant, who faced the death penalty if convicted. He will remain in jail without bail as he awaits a new trial on charges that he murdered Lillian and John George Dietz Jr., both 63, in their bedroom in the 7700 block of Inwood Road.

After deliberating about 13 hours since Monday, the jurors notified Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull II about 4 p.m. yesterday that they were hopelessly deadlocked: nine voting for a guilty verdict and three voting not guilty.

During six days of testimony, prosecutors James O. Gentry Jr. and A. Dean Stocksdale produced a string of friends and neighbors who told the court that Mr. Deitz had for years said he hated his parents, and even spoke of killing them. Several said that he seemed to react coldly to their violent deaths, which the prosecution said occurred during the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 25.

Mr. Dietz's former girlfriend, Yvonne Bohn, 22, of Elkridge, testified that he was eager to inherit the 19-acre farm and live there with her, although she also said she wasn't serious about him.

He met her Oct. 25 with flowers, candy and a bracelet, saying "We have no money problems now," she testified. She cooperated with police to obtain a confession from him, resulting in several hours of tapes, some played for the jury.

Defense and prosecution lawyers differed vehemently about the meaning of his comments on the tapes, in which he ranged from metaphysical speculation to adolescent incoherence. At times he seemed to admit involvement and then, on the verge of confessing, suddenly veered off into a flat denial, or another maudlin declaration of love for Miss Bohn.

Defense attorney Leslie A. Stein attacked the girlfriend's testimony, arguing that Miss Bohn used Mr. Dietz. He noted that she had been fired as a caretaker for the Dietzes for keeping the place like a pigsty, and he emphasized that she -- as well as others who hunted on the farm -- knew that keys to the house were left in the Dietzes' unlocked pickup truck outside.

The defense lawyer called a teen-ager and a cousin of the dead man, who gave testimony suggesting that other, unknown persons were using the Dietzes' missing red Camaro while they lay dead, their bodies undiscovered until Oct. 28.

Mr. Stein also challenged the autopsy reports, producing an expert witness who said the two bodies had decomposed at such different rates that they must have been killed at different times or places.

The defendant did not testify.

After asking the jurors whether one more day's deliberation would produce a verdict, Judge Turnbull accepted the deadlock and told them, "This was an extremely difficult case for both sides and extremely well-tried . . . No one, to my mind, could possibly fault you for not being able to arrive at a unanimous decision."

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