Murder trial transferred from Arundel to Howard

January 26, 1995

A man who could be given the death penalty if convicted of murdering two women in Severn in 1993 will be tried in Howard County Circuit Court in March.

Lawyers for Darris Ware, 23, of no fixed address, asked Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. Tuesday to transfer the case to Howard County, arguing that pretrial publicity made it impossible to get a fair trial in Anne Arundel.

Under Maryland law, the request must be approved because the prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

Mr. Ware was charged Dec. 30, 1993, with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his former fiancee, Betina Gentry, 18, and her neighbor, Cynthia Vega-Allen, 22. A relative found the two shot to death about 1:30 p.m. in Ms. Gentry's home on Bastille Court in Severn, police said.

Mr. Ware is being held in the county Detention Center.

Mr. Ware, who was staying with relatives in Glen Burnie at the time of the slayings, was arrested after police were told that he had argued repeatedly with Ms. Gentry the day of the killings and had threatened her brother with a handgun when he tried to intervene.

Assistant public defender Robert Waldman, one of Mr. Ware's lawyers, declined to specify why he sought the trial transfer but emphasized that he filed the request well before the March 8 trial date.

"It's not a delaying tactic, and we're not trying to put any undue stress on the court system. It's just in the best interests of our client," he said.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said the move will mean longer pretrial hearings and a longer trial.

There have been several days of hearings before Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth to consider 53 pretrial motions filed by Mr. Ware's lawyers on a range of issues, such as whether DNA evidence may be used in the case.

No rulings have been made on many of those motions, so they probably will have to be argued again before a Howard County judge, Mr. Weathersbee said.

"There were days and days of motion hearings, and just as we're getting close to the trial, all of a sudden the defense wants to do it all over again," he said.

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