Page told police of 'quick way out' To beat charges, he sought hit man

June 09, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A former Marine told police he was depressed at the prospect of spending his life in prison when he approached a man he thought was a hired killer about slaying two potential witnesses.

Prosecutors played the tape of a police confession to accompany the testimony of Cpl. Lee Lachman before a Howard Circuit Court jury in the trial of James Alexander Page Jr., 27, of Greenbelt.

Page, whose Marine enlistment expired while awaiting trial, is charged with two counts each of solicitation to commit murder and obstruction of justice.

He is accused of offering $3,000 to an undercover state police trooper who was posing as a hit man. The money was to be payment for killing a Columbia girl who accused Page of rape and the girl's boyfriend to prevent the couple from testifying.

Police started investigating Page after an informant in the county Detention Center called investigators to report that Page was looking for a hit man, the corporal said.

Page's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Louis Willemin, asserted that the informant "enticed" his client into pursuing the slayings.

But Corporal Lachman testified that Page told him after his arrest on Dec. 18 that he saw the slaying of the witnesses as a way he of getting "out from under" the charges.

In the tape, Page is heard choking back tears as he explained to Corporal Lachman how the informant helped him reach "Mike Saints," who he thought was a hit man.

"I just wanted it to end," he said. "I was depressed. I was down. They offered a quick way out. I jumped at it."

Page told Corporal Lachman he changed his mind about the killings but was afraid that the informant or hit man would harm him or his girlfriend if he backed out.

Corporal Lachman said Page at first denied ever talking about killing the witnesses, but later admitted to it after being told the hit man was a state police detective.

When Page was arrested on the solicitation charges, police found notes referring to the killings among legal papers in Page's cell, Corporal Lachman said.

Among the notes were two pieces of paper -- one with the phrase "Death Maker" and another with the word "Nightmare," the detective said. Both papers had sketches of skulls, sickles and pistols.

Trooper George Forsythe, the undercover investigator who posed as the hit man, testified that he talked to Page three times between Nov. 2 and Nov. 6 to arrange the killings. The informant placed the telephone calls and then handed the phone to Page each time.

The trooper said he closed his investigation when he stopped getting calls from Page after the informant was released from jail in November.

Trooper Forsythe testified that he advised county police to warn Page that investigators knew about the alleged solicitations and that he would be a suspect if anything happened to the two witnesses.

Corporal Lachman said police never gave Page the warning because they wanted to wait several weeks to see if he pursued his search for a hit man.

Trooper Forsythe said Page started contacting him again in early December, when the informant was jailed on new charges.

The trooper testified that Page suggested ways to kill the witnesses, such as decapitating or drowning the boyfriend and making the victim's death look as if it were the result of a soured drug deal.

Page also wrote letters to Trooper Forsythe, addressed "Bible Study" and sent to a post office box provided by the investigator, the trooper said. "If you can't do it, say so," Page said in one letter. "I'm serious about it. . . . We can, and will, make a lot of money."

Page, who faced 31 charges -- including several first-degree rape counts -- was found guilty of commiting perverted sexual practices for engaging in a sex act with the girl in a car parked at a Columbia industrial park.

He was given a suspended prison sentence in March.

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