Ex-roommate of defendant testifies about events the night woman was slain

April 26, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A former roommate testified yesterday that James Calvert McGee, on trial on first-degree murder charges, invited another roommate to go along with him the day that Katherine Huntt Ryon, 74, was killed.

Mr. McGee, 42, of the 200 block of Victor Parkway is accused of taking part in the killing of Ms. Ryon, a friend of his mother.

In opening statements, the defense told an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury that Mr. McGee went to Ms. Ryon's home only to borrow money for groceries and that his other roommate, Richard Wayne Willoughby Jr., 36, lost control and acted alone when he strangled her.

But Joan Woodhouse, Mr. Willoughby's former girlfriend, testified that Mr. McGee called Mr. Willoughby into his bedroom before 5 p.m. April 15.

"I heard Jay [Mr. McGee] say to Rick [Willoughby], 'We're going to her house, and you know what that means,' " Ms. Woodhouse told jurors.

Ms. Woodhouse, 44, now living in Barboursville, Va., said she tried to talk Mr. Willoughby out of going with Mr. McGee that night because she believed they were going to buy drugs.

But the two men left the apartment on foot about 5 p.m., she said. When they returned about three hours later, they had Ms. Ryon's 1990 Volvo and Mr. McGee was carrying a brown suitcase filled with women's jewelry, she testified.

She said Mr. McGee told her that Ms. Ryon had pleaded with him to save her as she was being choked to death.

"He told me that she had pleaded with him to help her, and that she had asked him, please, for his mother, who had been her friend, just help her," Ms. Woodhouse said.

Dr. David Fowler, an assistant state medical examiner who supervised the autopsy on the victim, said that Ms. Ryon was strangled with hands and with a cord and that she was choked for 30 seconds to two minutes before she died.

She also had cuts on her index finger as if she had struggled with her killer, he said.

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

Prosecutors have argued that Mr. McGee is guilty of murder under the state's felony murder law because he took part in the robbery and moved her body to a second-floor bedroom.

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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