Accepting mistrial is hard for dead wife's family

August 07, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

Moments after Harford Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill had declared a mistrial in a murder case Tuesday, the defendant and his former sister-in-law got into a shouting match.

"You're evil," he said.

"No, you're the evil one," she cried, as she began to sob.

Sheriff's deputies quickly led the defendant, Harry Phillip Gross III, from the courtroom and returned him to the county Detention Center, where he will be held for retrial on a first-degree murder charge.

Mr. Gross, 45, of the first block of S. Ellwood Ave., Baltimore, is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Clara Jean Gross, 43, in March 1993 and trying to make it look as if she committed suicide.

Judge Whitfill declared the mistrial after the jury deadlocked.

Jurors said that, after numerous polls, their vote was unchanged: Seven believed Mr. Gross was guilty of first-degree murder. Four said he was guilty of second-degree murder and one juror remained undecided.

Harford State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, who prosecuted Mr. Gross, said the toughest part of his job is going back to a victim's family when decisions are unfavorable.

In some ways, for Anna Englestad, the sister of Clara Jean Gross, the jury deadlock was worse than an acquittal. The mistrial meant she would have to endure the gruesome testimony all over again.

Mr. Cassilly said he definitely will retry the defendant.

"Maybe I'll have to bring in more witnesses, different witnesses, who can convince another jury that Clara Jean Gross was not running around on Harry Gross," he said.

Testimony in the trial last week indicated that Mr. Gross became suspicious of his wife and paid a private investigator $600 to follow her.

When the investigator's preliminary report failed to substantiate his suspicions, Mr. Gross nevertheless confronted his wife with an altered version of the report at the couple's Edgewood mobile home.

Mr. Gross, who did not testify at the five-day trial, told police that his wife became very angry and began waving a .38-caliber pistol. He said she then pointed it at herself.

He said he grabbed his wife's wrist to stop her from killing herself. As he did, he said, the gun fired.

Clara Gross died at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center about an hour later.

Sheriff's investigators testified at the trial that evidence at the crime scene did not match what Mr. Gross told them had happened. They also said he gave them several versions of the shooting.

They concluded that he had planned to kill his wife, because co-workers and friends told them Mrs. Gross planned to leave her husband and to remove him as beneficiary of her $50,000 life insurance policy.

"How many witnesses do you have to call to make a point?" Mr. Cassilly asked Thursday..

"Not one witness said she was running around, and the PI's report supported that," he said. "Even the jury believed he was guilty of something."

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