Murder charge dropped for lack of evidence

February 08, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A murder charge against a Baltimore man accused of gunning down a nightclub owner in the driveway of her Arnold home last September was dropped yesterday by Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, who cited a lack of evidence.

Edward Wendell McLeod, 43, of the 1800 block of Division St. in Upton, was charged Nov. 10 with first-degree murder in the slaying of Joanne Shuey Valentine, 47, of the 500 block of Broadwater Road.

Mrs. Valentine, a mother of two, was shot about 4 a.m. Sept. 26 by someone who had followed her into the driveway of her home.

She had just finished closing for the night two Anne Arundel County nightclubs she owned with her husband, Vincent N. Valentine: Rumblefish, in the 7900 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. in Glen Burnie, and A. L. Gators, in the 8500 block of Fort Smallwood Road in Riviera Beach.

Police said Mrs. Valentine pulled into the driveway of her waterfront home on Broadwater Road and confronted three or four men in a car that had followed her to the garage.

A moment later, two shots were fired, one striking Mrs. Valentine in the head. She died several hours later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Mr. McLeod became a suspect af ter he was arrested on a shoplifting charge at a Pasadena Safeway store Oct. 1, 1993, and county police found in his car the .38-caliber Taurus revolver that was used in the murder.

State police tests determined the gun was used to kill Mrs. Valentine. Mr. McLeod admitted to stealing it in July from On Target, an Odenton gun shop, according to charging documents.

Mr. McLeod, who is serving a theft sentence, will still face theft and handgun charges in connection with possessing the weapon, Mr. Weathersbee said.

Mr. Weathersbee said last night that although the gun represented sufficient evidence for an arrest, he decided there was insufficient evidence to win a first-degree murder conviction.

While an arrest requires probable cause, a conviction requires establishing guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

"There were reasons that the arrest was made at the time it was made," he said. "It was the appropriate thing to do considering our priorities, but beyond that I can't get into an ongoing investigation," Mr. Weathersbee said.

The case, in which no arrests were made for six weeks, attracted widespread media attention, prompted the victim's family to offer a $10,000 reward for information, and inspired county police to assign five homicide detectives to sort through the hundreds of leads.

Mr. Weathersbee declined to comment on whether any additional evidence has been gathered, whether other suspects have been identified or whether another arrest may be forthcoming.

But Carol McCabe, the assistant public defender, said the state had no evidence linking Mr. McLeod to the murder, other than the gun found in his trunk.

She said Mr. McLeod did not know the victim, that his brown 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo bears no resemblance to the small, light-colored car described by witnesses as fleeing the scene and that anyone could have used the gun and planted it in his car.

"There were all sorts of people who had access to that car," Ms. McCabe said.

The victim's husband, who witnessed the shooting from a balcony in the home, was unavailable for comment last night.

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