Three teen-agers charged with bludgeoning a homosexual man to death last summer in Patterson Park maintain that the victim attempted to molest one of them and was then killed by a large gang of anti-gay hoodlums, defense lawyers told a jury yesterday.
The victim, James Charles Turch, 45, was beaten with a wooden stake. The defendants, Anthony Fields, 16, Terry A. Ostrowski, 18, and Christopher Stanley Mills, 19, are charged with first-degree murder.
During opening statements in Circuit Court, three defense attorneys said the victim had attempted to sexually molest one of the three defendants while they were at the park on a drinking binge.
As a result, more than a dozen undesirables who go to the park for nightlife and drugs began beating the man, the attorneys said.
"It's not a child's dream growing up next to a city park anymore. It's more of a nightmare," said Kirk Osborn, Mr. Ostrowski's attorney.
Police said Mr. Turch died of blunt head trauma and that $3 in cash had been taken from him, apparently by another youth who found his body in the park.
Assistant State's Attorney William McCollum did not address the jury, waiving his right to an opening statement. He said he didn't feel it necessary to "burden the jury" in a case that he said will be proven by testimony from witnesses.
The defendants got into a scuffle with Mr. Turch after a confrontation involving the Fields youth but they did not kill him, Mr. Osborn argued. When the three defendants left the park, "The fatal blow had not been delivered," he said.
The Fields youth, of the 300 block of South Madeira St., chewed gum throughout yesterday's trial session and was led in and out of the court in handcuffs and leg irons.
His attorney, M. Cristina Gutierrez, said numerous people may have become became involved in the beating of Mr. Turch. "He died an ugly, horrible death, but he may have been bludgeoned by more than one group of people," she said.
"There is drunkenness that goes on in that park, and there is gay-bashing that goes on in that park," Ms. Gutierrez said.
The three defendants went to Patterson Park that night to celebrate Mr. Ostrowski's return from military boot camp, Mr. Osborn said. They had been drinking when they were confronted by Mr. Turch, who had also been drinking, he said.
Mr. Ostrowski is a resident of the 1600 block of E. Baltimore St.; Mr. Mills lives in the first block of Fenway South in Middle River. Police say they arrested the three suspects after witnesses pointed them out.