Man guilty in murder of cabbie Conviction is 3rd in June killing HARFORD COUNTY

February 24, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

A 30-year-old Aberdeen man was convicted of kidnapping, robbing and strangling a taxi driver and stuffing him into the trunk of his cab before sending it plunging into a quarry near Whiteford in northern Harford County last June.

The Circuit Court jury, which deliberated 7 1/2 hours, found Stanley J. Baczeski Jr. guilty of premeditated murder but stopped short of judging him a principal in the crime.

That would have meant a death sentence for Baczeski, who stood emotionless, his hands clasp behind him, and stared blankly at the jury Monday night as the verdicts on each count were announced to Judge Cypert O. Whitfill.

Judge Whitfill ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for March 26.

Baczeski, of the 200 block of Valley Road, was the third man convicted in the killing of Elvert Jones, a driver for the Victory Cab Co. of Aberdeen.

Clifton Paul Brinegar of Bel Air, 19, pleaded guilty on Dec. 2 to robbery and first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. His stepbrother, Billy Joe Brinegar of Aberdeen, 23, also pleaded guilty to the crime on Jan. 21. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 56 years.

Police said each man netted about $5 in the robbery.

Evidence showed the 42-year-old victim picked up Baczeski and the Brinegars at an Aberdeen carwash about 9:30 p.m. on June 22. He spoke briefly by radio to his dispatcher about the fare to the 1000 block of Cedar Lane off Route 136 in Creswell. Mr. Jones was not heard from again.

Evidence showed the Brinegars were seated in the back seat of the taxi when they used a shirt to strangle the driver. Baczeski was seated in the front passenger seat and punched Mr. Jones in the face to help curtail his resistance.

Aberdeen police received a missing person report on Mr. Jones about five hours later.

Police said a break in the case came three days later when the girlfriend of Baczeski's brother told them Baczeski had said he and the Brinegars had ditched a taxi in a quarry.

Acting on that information, police quickly located a site near Whiteford where a vehicle recently had gone over an embankment. Divers located the cab in about 55 feet of water on June 26.

Investigators said a 23-pound piece of slate had been placed on the accelerator to propel the taxi over the edge and a bluish-green shirt had been tied to the gear shift lever.

The shirt, they said, belonged to the younger Brinegar and was the same shirt used to strangle Mr. Jones.

Baczeski, who did not take the stand during the eight days of testimony, had told police he was not in the cab when the Brinegars strangled Mr. Jones.

Robert Winkler, a public defender for Baczeski, told the jury his client took part in disposing of a body, but was not part of the state's theory that all three men plotted to kidnap and rob Mr. Jones and murdered him because they had to eliminate the only witness to their crime. He repeatedly attacked the credibility of the state's main witness, Billy Joe Brinegar.

Joseph Meadows and Vernon Gentile, assistant state's attorneys, contended that the incident happened just as Billy Joe Brinegar had told police it happened last June before he had struck a plea bargain to avoid going to trial in a death-penalty case.

State witnesses corroborated Billy Joe Brinegar's testimony, that the robbery and murder was premeditated.

Dr. J. Laron Locke, pathologist from the state medical examiner's office, told the jury Mr. Jones was not dead when placed in the trunk. He said the absence of water in the retrieved body's lungs indicated Mr. Jones did not drown, but that he had died of strangulation at some point before the taxi plunged into the quarry.

Cpl. James Harkins of the Sheriff's Office said investigators had to break the victim's fingers to remove the body from the trunk because Mr. Jones was tightly clutching the handles of a plastic milk crate when he died.

Prosecutors said the jury's decision on principalship was not an easy one to make.

"I'm sure they struggled with it by the intelligent questions they asked Judge Whitfill before making their final decision," Mr. Meadows said.

Baczeski still could receive two consecutive life sentences plus 50 years on the guilty verdicts for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and robbery, said Mr. Gentile.

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