Testimony in murder trial to begin today Defendant accused of killing over debt

January 26, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Columbia man is on trial this week in Howard Circuit Court on charges that he murdered a 21-year-old neighbor over a $50 drug debt in June.

Testimony starts today in the case of Dwayne Romaine Briggs, a 32-year-old maintenance worker at the Beeches Farm apartment complex who faces a murder charge and seven other counts.

Mr. Briggs, of the 7200 block of Eden Brook Road, is accused of gunning down Lawrence Rico Evans 3rd in front of the Beeches Farm apartment of the victim's girlfriend on June 9, 1992. Mr. Evans also lived at the complex.

The defendant allegedly fired six shots from a .25-cal. automatic handgun at Mr. Evans, with one of the bullets striking him in the chest. The victim was pronounced dead at the Howard County General Hospital shortly after the 10 p.m. shooting.

Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage, who is prosecuting the case, told the jury during opening statements yesterday that two people witnessed a man running from the scene of the shooting to another apartment at the complex.

One of those witnesses is the 15-year-old sister of the victim's girlfriend, Ms. Gage said.

The girl recognized the suspect as a neighbor, "a man she has seen every day for the last six years," the prosecutor said.

Edward Smith Jr., a Baltimore lawyer for Mr. Briggs, cautioned the jury's eight women and four men not to allow their fears of crime to cloud their vision of the facts.

"When something like murder happens, it touches us," Mr. Smith said. "The loss of life is serious. Dwayne Briggs . . . does not take that lightly."

The defense attorney acknowledged that Mr. Briggs, as well as the victim and some anticipated witnesses in the case, were involved in selling and using drugs, including crack cocaine.

He added that there was an "uneasiness" between the two men.

However, Mr. Evans was known in the King's Contrivance neighborhood as one who mistreated people and owed money to others, Mr. Smith said. The victim also carried a 9mm automatic weapon.

A police report filed in Circuit Court says witnesses told investigators that the defendant and the victim were feuding for at least one month. "Mr. Briggs told [a witness] that it was because Mr. Evans had been loaned $50 . . . ."

Mr. Evans borrowed the money to buy cocaine, the report says. The report also says Mr. Briggs and his brother-in-law had been "following, threatening and harassing" Mr. Evans to get payment for the money.

When Mr. Briggs was arrested two weeks after the shooting, police discovered a bullet in his pockets, but the gun believed to have been used in the shooting was never found, the report says. The bullet was the same type that killed Mr. Evans, police said.

The trial, before Judge Dennis Sweeney, is expected to continue throughout the week.

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