Slaying suspect's comments to police admissible

January 04, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Baltimore man accused of slaying another man in Columbia nearly five years ago told police after his arrest last summer that he shot the victim because he was a "mean man," county police Officer Robert Del Erba testified yesterday.

Kent Daniel Tillman also told Officer Del Erba that he believed the victim carried a gun.

Mr. Tillman, 29, made the statements as he was being driven to the county Detention Center following a bail hearing shortly after his arrest on Aug. 27, the officer testified.

"He said the reason why he did what he did was because the person was a mean man," said Officer Del Erba, who was driving Mr. Tillman.

The statements were the subject of a Howard Circuit Court hearing yesterday, in which Mr. Tillman's attorney requested that the comments be withheld at the defendant's trial.

Judge Raymond Kane Jr. denied the request, explaining that he believes the police officer never intended to get statements from Mr. Tillman.

Mr. Tillman, who left forJamaica after the August 1989 shooting, is to stand trial next week for the execution-style slaying of Sherman Joseph Chenault, 26, of Baltimore, along Waning Moon Way in Owen Brown village.

County prosecutors will seek a sentence of life without parole for Mr. Tillman if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Mr. Tillman also is charged with assault with intent to murder in the shooting of Mr. Chenault's companion, Sharrell Yvette Hudson of Baltimore.

Yesterday, defense attorney Roland Walker of Baltimore argued that Mr. Tillman's statements to Officer Del Erba should be withheld because his client had earlier refused to be interviewed by police investigators.

Officer Del Erba, who was not involved in the police interview, should have known that Mr. Tillman maintained his rights against self-incrimination, Mr. Walker said.

The officer testified that Mr. Tillman initiated their conversation by commenting on his stay in Jamaica. Officer Del Erba said he then asked Mr. Tillman if Jamaica was safe, because the officer's brother was planning to honeymoon there.

Mr. Tillman responded by saying Jamaica's tourist areas are safe, but other areas are not.

Mr. Tillman then asked the officer why he was denied bail, Officer Del Erba said. The officer said he explained to Mr. Tillman that bail was likely denied because he had fled to Jamaica.

Mr. Tillman then made the statements about shooting Mr. Chenault, Officer Del Erba said.

Under cross-examination by Mr. Walker, Officer Del Erba said he never intended to discuss the case with Mr. Tillman.

"I didn't want to talk to him about the case," the officer said. "If he did, well, so be it."

But Mr. Walker argued that Officer Del Erba should have avoided a conversation with Mr. Tillman or advised him to discuss the matter with an attorney.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell pointed out that Officer Del Erba never initiated the conversation, and that it was Mr. Tillman who continued to talk.

Mr. Tillman, whose brother operated the closed Odells nightclub in Baltimore, was arrested by Jamaican authorities on July 29 after county investigators received tips on his whereabouts.

A co-defendant in the shootings, Michael Butler, was sentenced in September 1989 to five years in prison for being an accessory after the fact to the slaying.

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