Jury hears tape describing teen's death Secret recordings made in 1982

March 23, 1993|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

DENTON -- In a conversation secretly recorded by police, Michael Whittlesey said he laughed as his badly bleeding friend Jamie Griffin pleaded for help, then died from an apparent head injury he received while the two youths were experimenting with a hallucinogenic drug in Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Whittlesey, who is on trial here for killing his 17-year-old friend nearly 11 years ago in Baltimore County, also told key prosecution witness David Strathy that he buried Jamie's body in a pine woods and drove the youth's car to Atlantic City, N.J.

Baltimore County police recorded conversations between Whittlesey and his high school friend Mr. Strathy -- who was wired by investigators -- on two occasions in June 1982, about two months after Jamie had disappeared.

Whittlesey was the last person seen with Jamie and police grew suspicious of him after he gave investigators differing accounts of what had happened to his friend.

The audio tapes, which contain dramatic and grisly details of Jamie's death and burial, were played yesterday to a jury during the third day of the trial.

Whittlesey, now 29, is serving a 25-year sentence for robbing Jamie of his car keys and money and stealing some of his possessions. He was not charged with murder until after police discovered Jamie's buried remains in 1990.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Whittlesey told Mr. Strathy that he and Jamie went to the park and took "acid squares . . . little purple things," a reference to the drug LSD.

Jamie was high, Whittlesey said on the tape, and began running through the woods.

"He ran into a tree and he spent like 15 minutes like walking around dead, going, 'Oh, Mike, get helpful. Get helpful.' And I'm like laughing 'cause I'm waiting for him to die," Whittlesey said on the tape. "He's bleeding all over the place, squirting out."

In a conversation with Mr. Strathy a day later, Whittlesey stopped short of confessing to Jamie's murder when he acknowledged that he might have shoved Jamie into a tree and caused his fatal injury.

"I mighta pushed him," Whittlesey said twice.

At one point during the taped conversation, Mr. Strathy grew impatient with Whittlesey and reminded him that he had told three different stories about how Jamie died.

"He did run into a tree. He was on acid," replied Whittlesey.

Whittlesey said he buried Jamie's body in the park, concealed the grave with vegetation and used his shirt to carry dirt from the burial to a nearby stream.

Apparently pleased with how well he had buried Jamie's body, Whittlesey told Mr. Strathy that he thought it would be difficult to locate the grave.

"Go back seven years from now, the bones'll be all you going to dig up," Whittlesey said.

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