Graphic photos trigger emotions at Carter trial

October 27, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

The color photograph showed a close-up of Vitalis V. Pilius' bloody, soot-covered, lifeless face. The soot, said Baltimore homicide Detective Gary Childs, apparently came from being dragged across the floor of the burned-out rowhouse at 2035 Mura St.

When Dontay Carter's murder trial began last week in Baltimore Circuit Court, prosecutor Vickie L. Wash warned the jurors they could expect to see some brutal, graphic evidence. Yesterday, when they did, one juror wiped tears from her eyes and shook her head. Others wore pained expressions.

The jurors saw more than 50 photographs taken after Mr. Pilius' body was found Feb. 14, three days after he was last seen alive. They saw pictures of Mr. Pilius lying at the foot of a set of basement stairs, a belt around his neck. They saw pictures of a blood-splattered wall. And they saw a close-up of the slain Catonsville man's bloodied hands, a picture that prompted tears from at least two members of the Pilius family.

From her seat in the center of the second row, widow Aldona Pilius strained to see the photographs as they were shown to the jury. She got a better view of the physical evidence recovered from the East Baltimore rowhouse as it was pulled, item by item, from brown paper bags.

She stirred uncomfortably at the sight of the jacket and shoes last worn by her husband. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes after seeing the metal pipe believed to be the weapon used to kill her husband.

Looking the pipe over, police crime lab technician David Williams said it was 5 feet 5 1/2 inches long, 1 1/2 inches in diameter and weighed at least 20 pounds. Detective Sergeant Childs said the green on the end of the pipe came from chemical tests that confirmed the presence of blood.

The focus on the crime scene came after prosecutors spent four days presenting witnesses to document Carter's travels around town in the days surrounding Mr. Pilius' death. The last of those witnesses, a 16-year-old friend of the defendant, testified last week that Carter admitted on Feb. 12 in a downtown hotel room that he abducted and beat a man and dumped the body in a basement.

Before the jury was called into the courtroom yesterday, Ms. Wash suggested Carter also had told the youth of a plan to target white men for robbery and murder. The prosecutor said Carter told the youth the Feb. 7 kidnapping of a Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor who was choked and left for dead in the trunk of his car was part of his plan.

Judge John N. Prevas ruled the youth could testify about the alleged plan but said he could not go into details of other abductions in whichCarter is to receive separate trials.

Taking the stand again yesterday, the teen-age boy said Carter had told him of a plan to "rob a white man and kill him."

But the youth, under questioning from Assistant State's Attorney Thurman Zollicoffer, appeared to violate the judge's ruling by saying Carter told him he wouldn't repeat the mistake that allowed a previous victim to survive.

John S. Deros, an assistant public defender representing Carter, asked the judge to declare a mistrial. In denying that request, Judge Prevas said the prosecutor's questioning opened the door to an unanticipated answer but the testimony could stand because it did not refer to a specific crime.

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