Accusations fly at murder-arson trial Judge, detective, lawyers enter fray

March 20, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

Tonya Lucas' lawyer squared off with a veteran homicide detective yesterday to produce one of the more heated exchanges in the East Baltimore woman's arson and murder trial.

At one point during defense lawyer Mark A. Van Bavel's cross-examination of Detective Sgt. Gary Childs, no fewer than four people -- the judge, the witness and lawyers for the two sides -- were talking at once.

Finally, Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman commanded, "Sit down, Mr. Van Bavel," and the situation quieted down.

But not for long. Tonya Lucas may be on trial in the July 1992 arson deaths of six of her children, but the names Andre Moore and Eugene Weddington remain sore spots for both sides in the case. And when Mr. Van Bavel pressed Sergeant Childs on the roles the two men played in the police investigation, voices raised in accusing tones again filled the courtroom.

Mr. Moore is the hard-drinking, sometimes boarder who was the original suspect in the East Eager Street rowhouse fire. Mr. Weddington told the jury he saw Ms. Lucas set the fire, but he has admitted previously lying under oath about the case.

For instance, Mr. Weddington originally lied in saying a stranger dropped him off near the Lucas house the morning of the fire. Sergeant Childs said that element of the story did not ring true from the start, but he said he searched long and hard without success for this "phantom person" who could have been a conspirator or, at least, another witness.

Mr. Van Bavel's suggestion that Mr. Weddington had named Mr. Moore as possibly being the mystery man then touched off the raucous four-way debate.

"I made every attempt to correlate Andre Moore to this case. I showed more pictures of Andre Moore around town than anyone," Sergeant Childs said. "If someone had put Andre Moore inside the house, there would have been two trials. . . . No one can put him inside the house. The house was locked."

Mr. Van Bavel asked: "Didn't Andre Moore have petroleum distillates on his clothing?"

"Like the defendant," Sergeant Childs shot back.

Mr. Van Bavel pressed on.

"To put it bluntly," he said, "you and Detective Bertina Silver decided very early who committed this crime and you set out to prove her guilty, isn't that right?"

"No, it's not," the detective said. "We did not single out the defendant."

Ignoring prosecutor Jack I. Lesser's objections, Mr. Van Bavel asked: "How do we explain away the petroleum distillates on Andre Moore's clothing, down three levels of clothing? How do we explain away the petroleum distillates on his hands?"

Judge Hammerman sustained all the objections.

His testimony complete, Sergeant Childs then left the witness stand, and court was adjourned until Monday.

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