Moments before carjacking described Defendant watched Basu, witness says

August 07, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A neighbor of Pam Basu testified yesterday that Rodney Solomon stood watching Dr. Basu put her young daughter into her BMW minutes before she was forced from her car and dragged to her death.

Another witness identified Mr. Solomon as the driver of the car, countering a defense lawyer's opening statements Thursday that a teen-age co-defendant was the driver.

Mr. Solomon, 27, of Washington would face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder and 18 other counts brought in connection with the Sept. 8, 1992, murder. A co-defendant, Bernard Eric Miller, 17, of Washington is serving a life sentence for his role in the slay- ing.

Julie Panzeri of Savage was one of seven witnesses testifying for the prosecution in Mr. Solomon's trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Ms. Panzeri said she was leaving her home in the 9600 block of Horsham Drive that morning when she noticed Dr. Basu's husband videotaping his wife and their 22-month-old daughter preparing to leave.

Ms. Panzeri said that at the same time she saw two black men walking by the row of townhouses.

One man, whom she identified as Mr. Solomon, was shirtless as he stood in the street, preventing her from backing her car out of its parking place.

"The man without his shirt was standing right behind my car," Ms. Panzeri told the jury of nine women and three men. "He didn't see me. He was still looking at Pam."

The witness said she was able to drive away once Mr. Solomon moved. Miller, meanwhile, was walking on the sidewalk across the street from the Basu home, following Mr. Solomon, she said.

As Ms. Panzeri drove off, she testified, she noticed Mr. Solomon and Miller walking down Horsham Drive toward Knight's Bridge Road -- the site where Dr. Basu was forced from her car.

In other testimony, two witnesses described the struggle between Dr. Basu and the two men at the intersection. The witnesses said they watched the struggle from a pickup stopped about 10 car lengths behind the BMW.

One of the witnesses -- Ronald Hicks, an auto body repairman from Severn -- identified Mr. Solomon as the man who got into the driver's seat of the BMW after Dr. Basu was forced from her car.

The other witness, Tammy Rienstra of Laurel, did not identify Mr. Solomon as the driver, but said the driver had facial hair and white high-top sneakers. The prosecution had introduced a pair of black sneakers as Miller's at his Howard Circuit Court trial in April.

The testimony of Mr. Hicks and Ms. Rienstra conflicts with the contention made in opening statements Thursday by one of Mr. Solomon's attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Samuel Truette, who said that Miller was driving the car.

Mr. Truette challenged the witnesses on the descriptions, noting that they gave police less complete descriptions of the assailants shortly after the carjacking.

Mr. Hicks testified that Mr. Solomon and Miller repeatedly struck Dr. Basu and that Mr. Solomon then pulled the 33-year-old scientist from the car and got into the driver's seat. Miller ran to the passenger's side and got into the car, Mr. Hicks said.

"[Dr. Basu] was reaching into the vehicle through the driver's window, like she was fighting for something," said Mr. Hicks, who said he watched the struggle as he stood in the pickup's bed.

"She was screaming the whole time."

Dr. Basu ran alongside the car, but fell when the car hit a dip in the roadway and sped away, Mr. Hicks said. "She's flopping like a rag doll," he said. "Blood started flying. She was still screaming."

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