Bid to save evidence in slaying case

March 13, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

Attorneys for a man once charged in the killing of an Arnold nightclub owner -- charges that later were dropped -- are seeking a court order to protect the evidence against him because they say he may be charged with the slaying again.

Edward Wendell McLeod, 43, of the 1800 block of Division St. in Baltimore was charged Nov. 10 with the murder of Joanne Shuey Valentine of the 500 block of Broadwater Road.

Mrs. Valentine, a 47-year-old mother of two, was shot about 4 a.m. Sept. 26 by someone who followed her into the driveway of her home, police said.

McLeod was charged with first-degree murder after he was picked up on a shoplifting charge at a Pasadena Safeway store. In the trunk of his 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo, county police said they found the .38-caliber Taurus revolver used in the killing.

He faces a theft charge for allegedly stealing the handgun last July from On Target, an Odenton gun shop. That case is scheduled for trial in Circuit Court on April 19.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee dropped the murder charge Feb. 7, saying only that his review determined there wasn't enough evidence to convict McLeod.

The slaying remains unsolved.

On Friday, Mark Blumberg and Carol McCabe, assistant public defenders, asked Circuit Court Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. for a court order prohibiting police and prosecutors from destroying evidence gathered in the original murder case against McLeod.

Judge Thieme is reviewing the request.

Mr. Blumberg argued that without the order, evidence that could exonerate his client might be lost or destroyed.

"It would seem a minor inconvenience to the state, given all their evidence labs and all their evidence storage rooms," he said.

He said his client, who is imprisoned on an unrelated theft conviction, has learned that police investigators are still approaching his friends and telling them the Valentine family is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

"They're continuing to offer substantial sums of money to co-defendants in the [handgun] theft case to get them to testify," Mr. Blumberg said. "My client has the sword of Damocles hanging over his head."

Gerald K. Anders, deputy state's attorney, declined to comment on the police investigation. But he said a court order restricting how police handle evidence could overburden the police and set a dangerous precedent.

"If every suspect can come in and ask for such an order it's obviously going to impede on a police officer's ability to do his job," Mr. Anders told Judge Thieme. "The question becomes what does it include. It could extend to a phone number written on the back of a matchbook."

Judge Thieme also is reviewing the defense attorneys' request for a court order for the police personnel records of Officer Bret K. Ballam and Officer Steven Morgan, who arrested McLeod on the handgun theft charge.

Mr. Blumberg said he wants the records because Officer Ballam was recently found guilty of administrative charges of having sex with a narcotics informant. Those records may help attack Officer Ballam's credibility when he testifies on the legality of his search of McLeod's car, Mr. Blumberg said.

"If there's a repeated pattern of lying by Officer Ballam, we would be entitled to use that to attack his credibility," Mr. Blumberg said.

Gail Watson, the county attorney representing the Police Department, called the request a "fishing expedition" and also said it would set a bad precedent and violate the officer's rights to privacy.

Thomas Pavlinic, Officer Ballam's attorney, said his client did not object to having his personnel records released.

Much of it is already public record, he said.

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