Chilling details recounted in first day of Basu trial

April 13, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Pam Basu shouted for her child and struggled to run alongside her stolen BMW as two men pulled away with her young daughter still inside, a prosecutor told jurors yesterday.

"She's fighting, she's screaming . . . she's running with the car. She's heard to say 'My baby, my baby,' " Michael Rexroad, Howard County senior assistant state's attorney, said during the start of the murder trial of Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington.

Unable to keep pace, Dr. Basu -- her arm entangled in a seatbelt -- fell and began "tumbling" alongside the vehicle as it was driven down Gorman Road, Mr. Rexroad said.

Mr. Rexroad provided the unnerving details of the Sept. 9 slaying to a Howard Circuit Court jury during his opening statement yesterday. Mr. Miller is charged with first-degree murder and 18 other counts in the slaying of Dr. Basu.

Laurack D. Bray, a Washington attorney for Mr. Miller, admitted that Mr. Miller was present during the carjacking but contended that co-defendant Rodney Eugene Soloman is responsible for the alleged crimes.

"We are not here to prove that Pam Basu did not suffer a tragic death," the attorney said. "For the most part, Bernard Miller had an innocent presence."

Six people, including the victims of two attempted carjackings in the minutes before the Basu slaying, testified yesterday.

Several witnesses said under cross-examination by Mr. Bray that Mr. Miller appeared to follow the lead of Mr. Soloman.

Today, Dr. Basu's husband, Biswanath "Steve" Basu, and witnesses of the carjacking are to testify. Prosecutors also are expected to present jurors with a videotape Mr. Basu made of his wife and 22-month-old daughter as they left their home for the girl's first day at pre-school.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Soloman can be seen in the background, walking through the neighborhood, prosecutors say.

Mr. Rexroad told the jury yesterday that Mr. Miller was an active participant. The two men approached Dr. Basu while she was stopped at an intersection near her home on Horsham Drive in Savage, he said.

The prosecutor contends that Mr. Soloman pulled Dr. Basu out of the car while Mr. Miller got into the vehicle on the passenger side and pushed her out.

The car pulled off, with Mr. Soloman allegedly driving. At one point, they stopped along Gorman Road to throw the child from the car, Mr. Rexroad said.

The girl, who was in a car seat, was uninjured.

The defendants then drove along a barbed-wire fence to dislodge Dr. Basu.

"But they didn't stop," the prosecutor said. "They went further down the road. . . . They leave her in the middle of the road, wrapped in barbed wire."

Altogether, the defendants dragged Dr. Basu at speeds of up to 60 mph, leaving a bloody trail that police traced back to the scene of the attack, Mr. Rexroad said.

Mr. Bray argued that the prosecution filed a "multitude of charges" against Mr. Miller in an effort to overwhelm the jurors and convince them of his guilt.

"We will rely on some of the state's own evidence to show that this boy did not commit these crimes," Mr. Bray said.

Grace Lagana, a Laurel woman who manages the tourism center at a rest area along Interstate 95 near Savage, was the first prosecution witness to testify.

Ms. Lagana said she was getting her purse and files from her white convertible near the tourism center when she was approached by Mr. Soloman and Mr. Miller.

The woman said she refused to hand over her car keys after Mr. Soloman threatened her.

During a struggle, the key ring snapped and Mr. Soloman got the keys and entered the car, Ms. Lagana said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Miller grabbed the woman's wrist and pushed her to the ground as he forced his way to the car's passenger seat, she said.

Mr. Soloman was using the trunk key in the ignition and the car wouldn't start, Ms. Lagana said. She said the men fled to the woods behind the rest area when a man ran to help her.

Under cross-examination, Ms. Lagana said she did not say she fell when she made a written statement to police after the incident, because she did not think it was important

Laura Becraft testified that Mr. Soloman and Mr. Miller confronted her near her home on Jaclyn Court in Laurel after she picked up a neighbor's son to take him and her son to school. Mr. Soloman demanded her car keys as Mr. Miller stood nearby.

Ms. Becraft said she refused to hand over the keys and the men fled when she told them that a police officer was at a nearby school crosswalk.

The victim testified under cross-examination that she was alarmed by Mr. Miller even though he did not physically threaten her.

"When someone's standing there like they're going to jump you, that's pretty threatening," Ms. Becraft said. "He was acting with [Mr. Soloman]. They were both working together."

Mr. Miller, charged as an adult, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted. Prosecutors are prohibited from seeking the death penalty for any juvenile under state law.

Mr. Soloman faces the death penalty for his role in the Basu slaying. His case has been moved to Baltimore County, but a trial date has not been set.


Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington, is being tried on 19 criminal charges in the carjacking murder of Pam Basu. The charges are:

* First-degree murder.

* Manslaughter.

* Assault with intent to murder.

* Assault with intent to maim, disfigure or disable.

* Assault with intent to rob.

* Two counts of robbery.

* Two counts of kidnapping.

* Two counts of theft.

* Two counts of attempted theft.

* Three counts of assault.

* Three counts of battery.

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