Defendant, victim argued, woman's family testifies

September 16, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Relatives of a Baltimore woman slain at a Scaggsville reservoir in April 1993 testified in Howard Circuit Court yesterday that she repeatedly argued with her live-in boyfriend, the man being tried on murder charges in her death.

The relatives, including two of the woman's sons, testified that Vanessa Armstead and Marvin Philander Smith fought mostly when they were drinking and that the couple had been drinking on the night of Ms. Armstead's death.

"It was getting kind of bad," testified Darlene Monroe of Baltimore, Ms. Armstead's sister. "They used to argue all the time. She was thinking about leaving [Mr. Smith]."

During one fight, Ms. Monroe said, Mr. Smith knocked out Ms. Armstead's gold tooth.

Ms. Monroe and the other relatives were called as prosecution witnesses in the case of Mr. Smith, who is the first defendant in recent years to represent himself on murder charges in Howard County.

Mr. Smith, 37, of Baltimore, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder in the April 13, 1993, slaying of Ms. Armstead.

The body of Ms. Armstead, 38, was found floating in the shallow waters of the Rocky Gorge Reservoir by a Laurel man and his 14-year-old son, who were fishing at the lake.

Mr. Smith told police he had last seen Ms. Armstead at a Baltimore liquor store, according to the prosecution. Mr. Smith fled Maryland shortly after he was questioned by police and was arrested in North Carolina in June 1993.

Mr. Smith's trial continues today before Judge Raymond Kane Jr.

Ms. Monroe testified yesterday that she last saw her sister about 11:30 p.m. April 12, when Ms. Armstead, Mr. Smith and a cousin left her home in the 1000 block of Argyle St. after watching a movie together.

The cousin, Goldie Parker of Baltimore, testified that the group drank beer and other alcoholic drinks that evening.

Ms. Parker testified that Mr. Smith and Ms. Armstead took her home about midnight in Ms. Armstead's 1977 Ford station wagon. Mr. Smith was driving the car, she said.

Preston Geddis, Ms. Armstead's 15-year-old son, testified that Mr. Smith was at the family's home in the 1300 block of Argyle St. the next morning, without his mother.

"I asked Mr. Marvin if he had seen my mother," the boy testified. "He said, 'I wasn't looking for her.' "

Young Geddis testified that he was going to telephone Ms. Monroe about 7:30 a.m. to ask whether she had seen Ms. Armstead, but that Mr. Smith told him it was too early to call.

Bernard Blair, an acquaintance of Mr. Smith's from Baltimore, testified that Mr. Smith came to his house about 10 a.m. April 13 and asked whether he could hang up some wet clothing, a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

Mr. Blair said Mr. Smith insisted on parking Ms. Armstead's station wagon behind his house in the 500 block of McMechen St.

"It would have been easier to park in front of the house," Mr. Blair said. "It was kind of strange."

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