Phone call is key in murder trial BALTIMORE COUNTY

March 19, 1993|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

DENTON -- Baltimore County police searching for 17-year-old Jamie Griffin in 1982 got countless tips from callers up and down the East Coast. But it was something Michael Whittlesey, Jamie's friend, told his father in a phone conversation that brought their attention back home.

Whittlesey, on trial in Caroline County for Jamie's murder,

telephoned his father on April 2, 1982 -- the day Jamie disappeared -- and said he was in Washington.

Phone records revealed that Whittlesey had made the call from a pay phone outside the Playboy Club in Atlantic City, N.J.

"It was an obvious lie or discrepancy," said Wayne Murphy, the lead Baltimore County investigator in the Griffin case.

Whittlesey was the last person seen with Jamie. The two youths had been friends for several years, and Whittlesey occasionally spent the night at Jamie's house in Cockeysville.

Whittlesey was not charged with Jamie's murder until 1990, when the missing youth's remains were discovered buried in Gunpowder Falls State Park. Mr. Murphy, who is now retired from the police force, testified yesterday in court that he grew suspicious of Whittlesey in early 1982 and was determined to keep tabs on him.

On May 21, 1982, Baltimore County police drove to Atlantic City and recovered the Griffin family's Ford, which Jamie took to school the day he disappeared.

Police scrutiny of Whittlesey intensified, and two months after Jamie disappeared, detectives persuaded Whittlesey's friend, David Strathy, to wear a hidden microphone and try to get Whittlesey to talk about what had happened to the missing youth.

Whittlesey previously had taken Mr. Strathy to the Baltimore County park and showed him a mound where he said Jamie was buried, Mr. Strathy said during a pretrial hearing earlier this week.

Mr. Strathy said that later, when he took police to the park, they failed to find the burial site. Jamie's remains were unearthed eight years later when investigators used a radar-type sounding device to find his shallow grave.

Mr. Murphy said he and other detectives hidden in a van equipped with recording devices followed Mr. Strathy and Whittlesey on June 2 as the two drove around Edgewood, stopping to play pool and drink beer at several locations.

Prosecutors are expected to play portions of the tapes to jurors Monday when the trial resumes.

Whittlesey, now 29, is serving a 25-year prison sentence for the robbery of Jamie's car keys and money and the theft of Griffin's car and some of Jamie's possessions.

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