An Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury is not being asked to decide whether Thomas General Jr. killed his former girlfriend in her Glen Burnie apartment last June, but rather whether the killing was first-degree murder or manslaughter.
Mr. General, 38, of the 1600 block of N. Capital St. in Washington is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Mary Gadson, his former girlfriend. Miss Gadson, 34, was found stabbed and beaten to death in her apartment in the 7800 block of Tall Pines Court about 12:30 p.m. June 5.
Mr. General, a former Army captain and stockbroker, was arrested about 45 minutes later in the woods behind the apartment complex, where he had been tracked by helicopters and police dogs.
Mr. General's lawyer, assistant public defender James D. McCarthy, told jurors yesterday that his client killed Miss Gadson. The killing occurred during a fight, he said, and was manslaughter, not murder.
To win a manslaughter verdict, the defense must show that the killing was not a willful, premeditated or deliberate act, but rather a "hot-blooded response" to combat.
If convicted of manslaughter, Mr. General faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A first-degree murder conviction could send him to prison for life.
In his opening statement yesterday, Mr. McCarthy said the defendant and victim had a "sometimes stormy relationship" and that his client was distraught when he arrived at the victim's apartment the afternoon of the killing.
"At the time, he had been on an emotional yo-yo, and she was pulling the strings," he said.
Miss Gadson had thrown Mr. General out of her apartment a month before. When he returned after being kicked out of a Baltimore rooming house, the couple got into a terrible fight, Mr. McCarthy said.
"The fight escalated on both sides and escalated on both sides and escalated on both sides, and it ended in the tragic death of Mary Gadson," he said. "He simply lost control of his mind."
Prosecutor Eugene M. Whissel II said a medical examiner's report would show the victim suffered 28 injuries, including stab wounds and blows to the head. Knife cuts on her fingers showed that she tried to fight off an attack, Mr. Whissel said.
"She died a terrible, painful, disfiguring death," he said.
During yesterday's testimony, a neighbor said she called police when she heard a series of "intense, high-pitched screams" coming from Miss Gadson's apartment.
LaShawn Henson, who lived next door, said she and her three children had just returned from grocery shopping when she heard the screams.
"It was 'Help me, help me, call the police,' " Ms. Henson told the jury.
Ms. Henson said she saw Mr. General, blood dripping from his right ear, run from the victim's apartment about the time police arrived.
The case is being heard before Judge Bruce C. Williams.