Store owner was slain for $140, widow testifies

February 24, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Melrose hardware store owner Charles W. Therit was killed for $140, testimony revealed yesterday in the trial of the man accused of his murder.

A prosecution witness, Fay Therit, told the trial jury that five days after her husband was shot in the head with a gun taken from the store, she calculated how much money was missing from the store's cash register.

"How much?" asked Assistant State's Attorney Clarence "Buddy" Bell. "$140," Mrs. Therit said.

Mrs. Therit was one of seven witnesses who testified during the sixth day of the death penalty trial of Michael C. Bryson Sr. of Manchester.

He was arrested April 6 and charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and five related counts. State police made the arrest after fingerprints resembling Mr. Bryson's were found on a spent 20-gauge shotgun shell found near Mr. Therit's body.

The amount of money missing from the cash register is important, prosecutors say, because they are trying to show that the only way Mr. Bryson could have had the amount of money he had in the days following the killing was to have stolen it from Mr. Therit's shop.

According to testimony yesterday and last week, Mr. Bryson -- released from a York County, Pa., jail two days before the slaying -- gave his father, Garland Bryson, a total of $230 to pay some of his bills.

Even with the paycheck Mr. Bryson received April 1 from a temporary assignment at the Hampstead Black & Decker Corp. plant, he could not have had $230 in his possession, Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said last week in an evidentiary hearing out of the presence of the jury.

The amount of money the defendant paid to Garland Bryson was revealed yesterday as Mr. Hickman and Mr. Beall read from a transcript of Garland Bryson's deposition.

The deposition was taken in December in case the elder Bryson's health prevented him from testifying in person. He died last month in a Pittsburgh hospital awaiting a liver transplant.

Prosecutors have alleged that Michael Bryson was desperate for a job and for cash. They said in their opening statements to the jury that they believe Mr. Bryson shot Mr. Therit while he was grabbing a fistful of $10 and $20 bills from the store's cash register. Garland Bryson's deposition revealed that his son paid him with $20 bills.

In addition to presenting a possible motive for the crime, prosecutors are seeking to show that Mr. Bryson fired the gun used in the killing.

Mr. Hickman today is expected to call a firearms expert, who will testify about the 20-gauge Stoeger shotgun found in the woods around the hardware store two weeks after the killing.

The expert will testify that the gun -- taken from a gun rack in Mr. Therit's store -- was used in the slaying. While no fingerprints were found on the gun, the expert will say that ballistics tests will show that the spent shell with Mr. Bryson's fingerprints was fired by the weapon.

The trial was moved from Carroll to Anne Arundel County.

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