Students on trial in vagrant's death

February 15, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The taunting and "torture" inflicted on Archie Baldwin by two drunken college students -- who pushed him into a gully and threw stones and a concrete block at him -- proved too much for the homeless, elderly alcoholic and eventually killed him, an Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge was told yesterday.

"He literally had been frightened to death," Deputy State's Attorney William Roessler told Judge Robert H. Heller Jr.

Mr. Roessler's comments came in opening statements yesterday in the trial of Adam Schlossman and Theodore Reshettiloff, 21-year-old students at Anne Arundel Community College charged in the July 1992 death of Mr. Baldwin.

Both men are charged with manslaughter and assault with intent to maim in the death of Mr. Baldwin, described by attorneys on both sides as a homeless alcoholic in his 60s who frequented the defendants' neighborhood.

Mr. Roessler told Judge Heller the two men didn't like Mr. Baldwin loitering in the woods behind Mr. Schlossman's home in the first block of Jefferson Place in Annapolis.

When Mr. Schlossman found him in the neighborhood in July 1992, he called Mr. Reshettiloff, plus some friends with whom Mr. Schlossman shared his house, and told them "a bum" was lying in the woods passed out.

In a drunken state themselves, the men approached the victim at about 8:30 p.m., intent on abusing him, Mr. Roessler said.

"They taunted him, abused him and humiliated him in a number of ways," Mr. Roessler said.

They poured beer on him, painted him, knocked him to the ground when he tried to stand and pushed him down a 4-foot gully before Mr. Reshettiloff threw a part of a cinder block at him, Mr. Roessler said.

When they found Mr. Baldwin dead the next morning, they got scared, waited until nightfall and buried his body in a shallow grave -- dragging it on a sled to a spot deeper in the woods to avoid detection, Mr. Roessler said.

When Mr. Baldwin's body wouldn't fit into the grave, Mr. %J Schlossman broke both his legs with a shovel, according to testimony.

The body was discovered in April 1993, after one of Mr. Schlossman's roommates, Isaac Kumar, 22, contacted Annapolis attorney Gill Cochran, who persuaded him to go to the police, according to testimony yesterday.

"I was wrong in not contacting police right off the bat," Mr. Kumar admitted to Judge Heller in testimony yesterday. "I was scared for myself, I was scared for the people around me."

An autopsy by the state medical examiner determined that Mr. Baldwin died of heart failure, but ruled the death a homicide.

The defendants' lawyers portrayed the incident to Judge Heller as an accident prompted by poor judgment, "an 'Animal House' " situation in which neither defendant intended to injure the victim seriously or inflict any life-threatening wounds.

"This is 'Animal House' kind of behavior. Young men and alcohol will pervade this entire case," Keith Krissoff, Mr. Schlossman's attorney, said in opening statements.

Mr. Krissoff asked Judge Heller to consider the ill-health of the victim. He described Mr. Baldwin as a "raging alcoholic" who suffered from liver failure, had experienced delirium, had frequently blacked-out on alcohol and "had a very, very poor prognosis" for living much longer.

He said the victim had been treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center 18 times for various health problems in the six months before his death.

"I think the evidence will show that it's extremely unclear as to what the cause of death was," said William Ferris, Mr. Reshettiloff's lawyer.

Mr. Ferris said the defendants often abused each other in similar ways when they got drunk, painting each other's faces and pouring beer over each other if they fell asleep or fell into a drunken stupor.

"I have trouble imagining that it was funny. But these men thought it was funny when it was done to one of them," he said.

The trial is expected to run through next week.

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