Charges again dropped in death of tavern owner

March 31, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

For the second time, Anne Arundel County prosecutors have dropped murder charges against defendants accused in the September 1993 slaying of JoAnne S. Valentine, a 47-year-old nightclub owner who was shot to death in the driveway of her Arnold home.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee made the move yesterday after confirming reports that one of the accused men was jailed in Baltimore County on Sept. 26, 1993, the night Mrs. Valentine was killed in the 500 block of Broadwater Road.

Edward W. McLeod, 44, was released from the Anne Arundel County jail yesterday afternoon. Gilbert E. Griffin, 42, remains at the Maryland House of Correction Annex in Jessup. He is serving a 10-year sentence for the theft of the handgun police say was used in the slaying.

Griffin's lawyer, Pamela L. North, said she warned prosecutors in a March 3 letter that her client had a solid alibi.

"I told them that he was not guilty and that they should continue their investigation into this murder," Ms. North said. "Apparently, at that time no one heeded anything that I said."

Mr. Weathersbee acknowledged that the Baltimore County records Ms. North provided Tuesday destroyed the credibility of Clarence D. Pittman, a key prosecution witness and convicted armed robber.

Pittman had said he heard both defendants discussing the slaying at Mr. McLeod's home in Baltimore shortly after the slaying.

Mr. McLeod first was charged with murder Nov. 9, 1993, based on evidence that he stole a .32-caliber Taurus handgun used in the slaying. Prosecutors dropped those on charges Feb. 7, 1994, because they didn't have enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

Police later obtained sworn statements from Pittman. Based on his testimony, the Anne Arundel County grand jury indicted Griffin and Mr. McLeod on Dec. 19, 1994. Pittman, 50, since has pleaded guilty to robbery in an armed carjacking and is awaiting sentencing.

Mr. McLeod still could be charged with theft of the handgun, said his lawyer.

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