Motions are handled in death penalty case CARROLL COUNTY

December 02, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

In the days before state police investigators arrested Michael C. Bryson Sr. in the murder of Melrose hardware store owner Charles W. Therit, their search for the killer led to three dead ends.

None of the dead ends led investigators anywhere near Mr. Bryson, who was arrested April 6 after a set of fingerprints found at the slaying scene was identified as his. Mr. Bryson was in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court yesterday, as his attorneys and prosecutors argued over more than 30 pretrial motions in the death penalty case.

One of the state's motions -- which the judge granted -- sought to exclude testimony about the investigation's early dead ends.

One of those dead ends, according to testimony, was Mr. Therit's widow.

Shortly after Mr. Therit, 51, was shot in the head and left lying in a pool of blood on March 25, a fellow state trooper told the investigators of a possible romantic liaison between Mrs. Therit and a man other than her husband.

According to the unfounded tip, Mrs. Therit was seen embracing another man about two years ago in a Pennsylvania park.

The witnesses to the supposed embrace were longtime acquaintances of the Therits.

Investigators called one of the witnesses, put a trace on Mrs. Therit's phone and interviewed Mrs. Therit. They concluded that no such embrace took place.

Another unproductive lead revealed yesterday involved a man wanted on theft and forgery charges in Carroll and in other states who left town the day after Mr. Therit's death.

The man -- who went by the names Randall Curtis Braxton and Robert Thomas Brophy -- was arrested in Tennessee and brought back to Carroll. However, investigators discounted him as a suspect, because he and his girlfriend were planning to leave Carroll County for weeks to avoid financial and legal obligations.

The final dead end before Mr. Bryson's arrest involved a pair of men who had just been released from jail after serving time for constructing a pipe bomb.

The bomb was made with material bought from Mr. Therit's hardware store. Mr. Therit had given police the information that led to the arrest of the two.

But, after interviewing them, investigators also ruled them out.

In arguing to allow testimony about the early leads, defense attorneys said keeping that information from a jury could limit Mr. Bryson's defenses.

"The defendant should be able to put on a defense that says, 'You got the wrong guy here,' " said Richard O'Connor. "I mean, illicit romance is one of the strongest motives for murder throughout history."

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