Tape questions defendant's story in Therit killing

September 13, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- State police investigators listened to Michael C. Bryson as he calmly told them that he'd been watching television at his parents' house on the evening of March 25.

He told them he was no where near the Deep Run Hardware Store when Charles W. Therit was shot in the head with a shotgun during a robbery.

In a tape-recorded interrogation played at a pretrial hearing in Carroll County Circuit last week, Mr. Bryson said that the last time he was in the Melrose store was in October, to look at hunting rifles.

And he said that, since he was fresh out of jail after serving time on a theft conviction, he would have no reason to get involved in criminal activities again.

"Why would I do something like that?" Mr. Bryson asked during the tape-recorded interrogation after he was arrested and charged with the murder.

"That man was like a father to me."

On the tape, investigators told him that they believed his story, but they couldn't understand why his fingerprints were on the gun used to kill the 51-year-old store owner.

They also couldn't understand why his fingerprints were on the casing of the shell that was fired into Mr. Therit's head.

And they couldn't understand why Mr. Bryson's fingerprints were all over the box of ammunition from which the fatal bullet was taken.

In a conversation punctuated with profanity on both sides, the investigators asked Mr. Bryson to explain the presence of his fingerprints, and he continued to deny that he was at the store that night.

Mr. Bryson's explanations -- and the questions posed by the investigators -- will figure prominently in the trial, for Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled at the end of the hearing that prosecutors can use the tape as trial evidence.

Mr. Bryson, who occasionally shook his head and whispered to his attorneys as the tape played, will go to trial outside of Carroll County. No new location or trial date has been set, but State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said the trial could end up in Anne Arundel or Howard County.

Mr. Bryson, 26, was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, two counts of murder in the commission of a felony, robbery, misdemeanor theft and battery. Mr. Hickman is seeking the death penalty in the case.

The Therit killing, the county's only homicide this year, stunned North Carroll residents. The Therit family is well-known in Melrose and Manchester.

Mr. Bryson was arrested April 6 after investigators recovered the 20-gauge Stoeger shotgun police say was used in the killing and found fingerprints matching Mr. Bryson's at the scene.

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