A 16-year-old boy rushed to defend his girlfriend in October armed with a knife, used it to kill a neighborhood teen-ager and then calmly and silently walked away, a prosecutor told an Anne Arundel County jury yesterday.
Steven C. Barrett Jr. of the 8300 block of Brookwood Road, Millersville, is charged with murder in the death of Charles H. Cross, 16, of the 8300 block of Oakwood Road, Millersville.
The Barrett youth has been charged as an adult.
The Cross youth died Oct. 6 at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center about four hours after he was stabbed in an argument over who flattened his bicycle tire.
In opening statements yesterday before Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff, Frank J. Ragione, assistant state's attorney, said the Barrett youth showed a premeditated willfulness -- the standard for first-degree murder -- by what he did before and after he used his buck knife to sink a fatal, 2-inch stab wound into the victim's chest.
The youth intentionally brought the knife with him in anticipation of a fight that night, stabbed the victim, then "got up from the street, and walked away from the incident, without saying anything," Mr. Ragione said.
"This case is not a who-done-it. This is a case of what-is-he-guilty-of," Mr. Ragione told the jury of seven women and five men.
Mark Blumberg, the Barrett youth's lawyer, said the stabbing was an accident that occurred when the victim knocked his client down, got on top of him and was then impaled when he fell.
"Everyone saw the blood, but they thought it was Steven [who was bleeding] because Steven was getting pummeled," Mr. Blumberg said.
Mr. Blumberg said the Barrett youth's testimony will show he was carrying the knife not because he feared the victim, but feared one of his friends, John Chadwick, who was nearby at the time.
According to testimony, the incident began shortly before 8 p.m. when the Barrett youth's girlfriend, Wendy Rice of the 200 block of Poplar Road, and his sister Jenny got into an argument with the Cross youth because he thought Wendy had let the air out of one of his bicycle tires.
John Chadwick, who lives nearby in the 8300 block of Sycamore Road, testified that Wendy insisted that she didn't flatten the tire. When the Cross youth persisted, she slapped him, he pushed her and she spit on him.
The argument was heard by a neighbor, Michael Oler, 60, who came out of his house in the 200 block of Poplar Road to try to break it up.
Mr. Oler testified that he saw a "pushing match" between Wendy and the victim, who was referred to as "Chuckie" by attorneys and witnesses yesterday.
Mr. Oler, who had to wipe away tears as he testified, told jurors that he came out to break up the fight, that he pulled Chuckie away from Wendy and at one point pushed Chuckie away and told him to get on his bicycle and leave.
After a brief exchange between the victim and Mr. Oler, the Barrett youth came out of Wendy Rice's home, ran at the victim and pushed him.
Chuckie turned and hit the Barrett youth, who fell to the ground, and was "almost knocked out because he hit the road pretty hard with his head," Mr. Oler said.
At that point, Mr. Oler, who had recently had heart by-pass surgery, started to return to his house to call police.
"When they started fighting, I figured I needed help from somebody," he said.
But before he could make the call, the fight seemed to stop abruptly, the victim stood up to get off the Barrett youth and then collapsed.
"I said now why don't you get on your bike and go home and forget about it. That's when I saw the blood coming out of his mouth," Mr. Oler said in a voice choked with emotion.
Officer William George testified that when he was arrested, the Barrett youth said that he never meant to stab the Cross youth, that he only had the knife with him for protection and asked if the victim was all right.
"His face was flushed and he was soaking wet from crying," he said.
Throughout most of yesterday's proceedings, the atmosphere in the courtroom remained tense.
During opening arguments, Chuckie's parents rushed out, overcome with emotion, when Mr. Ragione described the killing.
A few feet in front of them, the Barrett youth kept his eyes on the defense table in front of him, seldom making eye contact with anyone in the courtroom.
In an earlier hearing, he told a District Court judge that he had dropped out of school in ninth grade because he "wasn't doing too good." He had attended the Phoenix School, a special education school for students not doing well in a regular classroom environment, for three or four years.
The case is expected to go to the jury tomorrow.