Brother-in-law testifies that defendant confessed to slaying in Sizzler holdup BALTIMORE COUNTY

August 06, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Within hours of the slaying, Robert Lee Berry told his brother-in-law he had shot someone at the Sizzler Restaurant in Cockeysville, the relative testified yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Christopher Bazemore, of Owings Mills, said Mr. Berry awakened him with a telephone call about midnight Dec. 26.

"He told me something went wrong. They went to the Sizzler and he shot someone," Mr. Bazemore said.

Mr. Bazemore said he didn't believe Mr. Berry until he saw a television news report about the robbery in which John D. Tillman, a 29-year-old employee was killed.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Mr. Berry, who is charged as the shooter in the holdup. Three alleged accomplices have been convicted and will be sentenced next month.

Mr. Bazemore, who testified with his back to the defendant, said that a week or so after the conversation, Mr. Berry asked him to "get rid of the gun." A few days later, county detectives interviewed Mr. Bazemore, who is on probation for an unstated offense, and he agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

Mr. Bazemore allowed police to record a conversation with his brother-in-law and agreed to set up a phony gun swap behind a Lansdowne convenience store on Jan. 14.

"We went behind the High's and exchanged guns, and police came from everywhere. He gave me the murder weapon, a gun," Mr. Bazemore said.

So far, however, there has been no ballistics testimony about the Smith & Wesson revolver, a bullet found on the restaurant floor or lead fragments taken from Mr. Tillman's head during the autopsy.

Homicide Detective Philip Marll said he gave Mr. Bazemore an inoperable .45-caliber pistol for the trade.

Mr. Berry was arrested as he walked away with the .45, while Mr. Bazemore gave police a shiny .38-caliber Smith & Wesson five-shot revolver, the detective testified.

More than 30 customers and employees were in the restaurant during the robbery. Several testified about four masked men bursting in and announcing the holdup. Although some of the witnesses did not see all the robbers, their descriptions of the events that culminated in Mr. Tillman's murder matched generally. Two of the men were armed, one with a long-barreled, dark-colored handgun, the other with a smaller, shiny weapon, according to testimony.

When Mr. Tillman was brought from the kitchen, one gunman ordered him to identify the manager. Mr. Tillman nodded his head toward where the assistant manager was sitting. The manager had left the table seconds before, when the commotion began.

The gunman asked, "him?" Mr. Tillman replied "not him," and "the man raised his small gun and shot John in the eye. He just pulled the trigger," said Travis C. Call, 20, a server at the restaurant.

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