Prosecutor says suspect ignored victim's pleas Annapolis man on trial as accomplice in slaying

April 24, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 41-year-old Annapolis man watched and did nothing last April as his accomplice strangled a 74-year-old retired nurse, then helped ransack the woman's house, rifling through drawers in search of cash to buy drugs, an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury was told yesterday.

James Calvert McGee of the 200 block of Victor Parkway refused to help when Katherine Hunt Ryon pleaded for her life as his accomplice smashed her head with a vase and choked her from behind as she sat in a dining room chair, said the deputy state's attorney, William D. Roessler.

"Katie cried for help from Mr. McGee, but he just sat and watched and did nothing," he told jurors in his opening statement.

When Ms. Ryon died, "she slumped to the floor, the blood from her head staining the rug," Mr. Roessler said.

Mr. McGee went on trial yesterday before Judge Eugene M. Lerner on charges of first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy in the April 15, 1995, slaying of Ms. Ryon.

Ms. Ryon's body was found Easter Sunday by a neighbor and a family friend in her home in the 400 block of Waggaman Circle, near Annapolis. She had been strangled with a dog leash.

Richard Wayne Willoughby Jr., 36, Mr. McGee's roommate, has admitted strangling Ms. Ryon but entered an insanity plea. A sanity hearing is tentatively scheduled for some time in July.

The men were charged with the murder after police found them in Ms. Ryon's 1990 Volvo.

In opening statements yesterday, J. Michael Wachs, Mr. McGee's lawyer, admitted that his client went to Ms. Ryon's home that day and stole some antique coins and jewelry to use to buy drugs. But he said Mr. McGee never intended to kill Ms. Ryon, took no part in it and should not be convicted of the slaying.

"He had no business stealing anything, but he also didn't commit any violent acts that day," Mr. Wachs told the jury of six men and six women. "Mr. McGee didn't hit her with any objects; Mr. McGee didn't strangle her; Mr. McGee didn't want to hurt this woman."

He emphasized that Ms. Ryon had lent Mr. McGee money in the past, that he grew up in the neighborhood where the slaying occurred and that he walked to the house that day in broad daylight, so that he knew he could have been seen by neighbors.

But Mr. Roessler said that under Maryland law, Mr. McGee is as guilty of first-degree felony murder as Mr. Willoughby because he took part in the robbery that lead to Ms. Ryon's death.

In testimony yesterday, Ms. Ryon's friends called her "Aunt Katie" and said she routinely gave gifts to their children, buying Easter dresses for the daughters of one longtime friend and an Easter card for the 2-year-old daughter of another.

"She was always very thoughtful toward my children," said a tearful Reid Buckley, one of Ms. Ryon's neighbors.

Testimony is expected to take four to five days.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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