Jury hears opposing views of murder suspect Drug buyer slain during robbery GLEN BURNIE

June 16, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A 37-year-old Glen Burnie man partying with family members in August made one mistake that cost him his life, a prosecutor told a Circuit Court jury yesterday.

James W. Helphenstine decided in the morning hours of Aug. 22 to buy some crack cocaine, "a decision that basically killed him," Assistant State's Attorney Robert J. Bittman said.

In opening statements in the trial of Rodney Lawrence Conyer, Mr. Bittman told jurors that the defendant shot Mr. Helphenstine in the back during a robbery at Valley Brook Apartments, where the victim had gone to buy drugs.

Mr. Conyer, 20, of the 100 block of Faywood Court in Glen Burnie also is charged with robbing the victim of $100 and a gold ring.

The day after the shooting, Mr. Conyer went to an apartment in the complex shared by three friends and bragged about the killing, Mr. Bittman said.

Mr. Bittman said Mr. Helphenstine had been at a "mini-family reunion" at a Glen Burnie tavern, with his two nieces, their boyfriends and his sisters. They left the tavern and he decided to buy some crack cocaine with a woman he had met at the tavern, Linda Young.

Ms. Young drove him to Valley Brook Apartments, where Mr. Helphenstine got out of her car. A few moments later, she saw him walk behind a large trash bin about 80 feet away. He was followed by a man who matched Mr. Conyer's description, Mr. Bittman said.

"She hears click, click, then a bang. He comes rushing back to her car, and there's blood everywhere," Mr. Bittman said.

The victim died later that night at North Arundel Hospital.

The next day, Mr. Bittman said, Mr. Conyer went to the apartment of three friends, who lived near the scene of the shooting, and confessed that he "killed a white guy last night."

But defense attorney Timothy Murnane said the prosecution's case is based on witnesses with serious credibility problems.

When Ms. Young was questioned by police at the hospital, he said, purses stolen from the victim's sisters were found in her car.

She originally told the victim the night they met that her name was "Brigid," and at first told police her name was Carol Ann Young.

Mr. Murnane also told jurors the acquaintances Mr. Conyer JTC allegedly confessed to were suspects in the killing themselves. The defense attorney said a police search of one of the acquaintance's apartments turned up a holster, some ammunition and $100 in $20 bills -- the same denominations police said were taken from the victim.

His client attended Temple University for a year and, at the time of his arrest, was working two jobs, one as a chef at the Rumble Fish Tavern in Glen Burnie, the other as a day care worker for the state Department of Social Services, he said.

The trial before Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. is expected to run for the next two to three days.

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