Man admitted watching slaying, detective testifies Woman, 74, was strangled in her home last year

April 25, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis man admitted watching his roommate strangle a 74-year-old retired nurse in her home last April but told police that, despite her pleas for help, he was too scared to try to save her, a police detective testified yesterday.

James Calvert McGee, 42, of the 200 block of Victor Parkway is being tried before Judge Eugene M. Lerner on first-degree murder and robbery charges in the April 15, 1995, slaying of Katherine Huntt Ryon.

Detective David McDonald read to the jury yesterday the statement Mr. McGee made to police after he was arrested.

Mr. McGee said that he went to Ms. Ryon's home to borrow money for groceries and that his roommate, Richard Wayne Willoughby Jr., 36, lost control and acted alone when he strangled her, the detective said.

Detective McDonald testified yesterday that in his April 20, 1995, statement, Mr. McGee said, "I had never witnessed a murder before, and I was terrified."

In his statement, as read by Detective McDonald, Mr. McGee gave this account:

Ms. Ryon, a longtime family friend, greeted him with a hug and welcomed both men into her house. Mr. McGee had brought Mr. Willoughby with him "to show him the neighborhood" where he grew up.

When Mr. McGee asked Ms. Ryon for cash, she said she had $50 and needed it for herself. Mr. McGee accepted that answer, but Mr. Willoughby became tense and went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. When Mr. Willoughby returned, he began choking Ms. Ryon, at first with his hands and then with a dog leash. He also smashed her head with a vase.

Mr. McGee said he thought about calling the police but that he knew it would be too late by the time they arrived. He thought about fighting off Mr. Willoughby but feared for his life.

"I picked up a small piece of wood and said, 'Leave her alone.' But I don't think the piece of wood would've fazed him. He had a crazed look in his eye and just kind of looked right through me," Detective McDonald read from Mr. McGee's statement.

Mr. Willoughby has admitted strangling Ms. Ryon but has entered an insanity plea. A hearing on his mental competency is to be held in July.

Prosecutors say Mr. McGee is guilty of first-degree murder under the state's felony murder law because he took part in robbing Ms. Ryon's home.

Pub Date: 4/25/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.