'Rough sex' killed girl, defense says Bonner is on trial in death of 16-year-old

November 02, 1995|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF Contributing writer Joshua Greenberg provided information for this article.

Baltimore County prosecutors charged yesterday that Courtney Danielle Letiro, a teen runaway, was raped and strangled in January. But an attorney for defendant Rafel Bonner described her death as a case of "rough sex" gone awry.

As Mr. Bonner's trial began in Baltimore County Circuit Court, jurors heard conflicting versions of events leading to the death of Miss Letiro, 16, in woods near the Back River sewage treatment plant.

Prosecutors said Mr. Bonner -- a 26-year-old unemployed man whose last known address was in the first block of Maurice Circle in Essex -- raped the Harford County teen, stole her jewelry and murdered her.

In a chilling opening statement, Assistant State's Attorney Michael Pate said that Mr. Bonner "choked her so hard with her own necklace that she had bruises on her neck." He said Mr. Bonner "savagely" beat Miss Letiro -- who lived in the 1800 block of Grempler Way in Edgewood -- and that she struggled for her life.

But defense attorney Gerald D. Glass told the 12-person jury and Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl that the teen died of cardiac arrest during an episode of rough sex in the woods with Mr. Bonner, who gave her $20 and took her jewelry as "collateral."

Charges against Mr. Bonner include premeditated murder, rape and robbery.

Sue Letiro testified tearfully that her daughter ran away Jan. 18 with friends Christina Sies and Heather Mills.

Days later, the three girls met up with Mr. Bonner, according to Miss Sies, 17.

While walking, Miss Letiro reportedly asked for a $20 loan, which Mr. Bonner agreed to provide in exchange for sex, according to a statement he made to police on Feb. 1. The statement was read in court yesterday.

He went into the woods and had intercourse with Miss Letiro, who reportedly requested that he grasp both sides of her neck, his statement said. When Mr. Bonner noticed she was unconscious, he checked for vital signs and found none. Panicked, he covered her body with two pieces of tin and left, it said.

An autopsy revealed that Miss Letiro died from strangulation, and signs of blunt force trauma to her face and neck were found, according to the testimony of Dr. Margarita Korell, a specialist in forensic pathology in the state medical examiner's office.

Testimony will continue today.

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