Murder charges against teen dropped Doughnut salesman was the victim

December 21, 1992|By Kris Antonelli and Thomas W. Waldron | Kris Antonelli and Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writers

Baltimore prosecutors have dropped murder and robbery charges that had been lodged against an 18-year-old South Baltimore man in the death of a popular Brooklyn-area doughnut salesman.

Charges against David Lee Schwartzman were dropped for lack of evidence, Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms said last night.

Mr. Schwartzman of the 1400 block of Elmtree St. in Curtis Bay had been held in the Baltimore Detention Center since his Nov. 10 arrest.

"They should have investigated me before they locked me up, not after," Mr. Schwartzman said last night at his house, where family members had strung 38 red bows along the stair banister and television stand -- one for each day he was jailed.

"I was going kind of crazy in there," said Mr. Schwartzman, who turned 18 while he was behind bars. "The inmates kept calling me 'The Doughnut Man.' "

The victim, Alonzo Coats, 64, was killed just before midnight Nov. 3 when he apparently attempted to stop someone from stealing his bakery van outside a restaurant in the 900 block of E. Patapsco Ave. in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors had not taken the case to a grand jury. But Mr. Simms said he would not rule out Mr. Schwartzman as a suspect in the case as the homicide investigation resumes.

The charges were dropped Friday, the day Mr. Schwartzman was due to receive a preliminary hearing during which prosecutors would have presented the outlines of their case to a judge.

Mr. Schwartzman said detectives told him that they had lifted his fingerprints from the van and that eyewitnesses had identified him. Prosecutors would not say what led to Mr. Schwartzman's arrest.

But Mr. Schwartzman said he was at home with seven other people at the time of the incident. The friends and family members who were with him have offered to take lie detector tests on his behalf, he said.

He said he and his girlfriend, Robin Miller, 19, were asleep in the basement of his home at 7 a.m. when police pounded on the door.

"My sister let them in the house," he said. "They put a gun to my head and told me they just wanted me on some petty charge and not to worry about it. They told me later that it was a murder charge."

Mr. Schwartzman said he was kept in a holding cell at the Southern District station for three days before he was transferred to the city jail.

"The officers there told me that Homicide would not go to all this trouble if they didn't think I did it," he said. "But how can they lock me up with no evidence? What happened to the fingerprints they said they had?"

The incident occurred as Mr. Coats was making his first stop of the night at the Central Restaurant, a block from the bakery that employed him as a delivery salesman. As was his custom, Mr. Coats had left the van's engine running, police said, when a man slipped into the driver's seat.

Witnesses told police they weren't sure if the man at the steering wheel saw Mr. Coats passing in front of the van or if Mr. Coats knew that someone had gotten into his van.

When the van moved forward, Mr. Coats was knocked to the pavement and his body became lodged under the vehicle, police said. Mr. Coats was dragged for nearly a block and was declared dead at the scene.

Mr. Coats was known as a generous man who would run errands or take care of the shopping for invalids and who provided leftovers from his rounds to area homeless shelters.

Saturday mornings, he would deliver a message about salvation and helping others in a show on WBMD Radio. Mr. Schwartzman said a preacher friend of Mr. Coats visited him in jail and gave him a Bible. "He told me, 'Mr. Alonzo wouldn't want the wrong person in jail for this,' " Mr. Schwartzman said.

Mr. Schwartzman, an eighth-grade dropout, said he wanted to get on with his life by earning a high school diploma.

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