Handyman confessed 3 times to '94 slaying, his lawyer says Trial begins in La Plata in death of Stevenson teen

May 15, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

LA PLATA -- Wallace Dudley Ball, the handyman accused of killing Debra Ann Goodwich during a burglary in her parents' Baltimore County home, confessed three times to the slaying -- including once in a letter to the victim's mother.

The confessions were enumerated yesterday by Ball's lawyer during opening statements in Charles County Circuit Court, where the trial under Maryland's death penalty statute was moved at the defendant's request because of widespread publicity about the 1994 slaying.

Defense lawyer Thomas C. Nugent Jr. told the jury that Ball confessed to a homicide detective orally and in writing, and again in the letter to Arlene Goodwich, the victim's mother. But he said Ball did not intend to kill the Catonsville Community College student.

Goodwich, 19, was shot five times at the house in the 7900 block of Greenspring Ave. in Stevenson, when she interrupted a daytime burglary Sept. 30, 1994. Seven months later, police arrested Ball, who formerly had done work for the family.

"He went there in order to steal from [parents] Arlene and Walter Goodwich, and things went badly," Nugent said. "It went horribly. The evidence is overwhelming and it will show that Wallace Ball wanted to avoid confronting anyone in that house."

Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney A. Dean Stocksdale told the jury that Ball hid in the woods the night before and waited for the family to leave.

Ball broke in through a basement window and ransacked the house. To avoid being identified, he poured chocolate powder mix on the kitchen floor and walked through it in boots two sizes too big, Stocksdale said.

He was caught by surprise when Debra Goodwich arrived unexpectedly and called out, "Who's there?" the prosecutor said.

Nugent said Ball ran into Goodwich as he was trying to escape through the front door.

"He sees Debbie, panics, and he shoots her," Nugent said. "He didn't mean to harm Debbie. She moved out of that house weeks ago. There was no reason to believe she would be back."

Arlene Goodwich, the only witness to testify before the court recessed for the day, said her daughter returned for a can of pepper spray she had left the night before.

The mother, a legislative aide, described in a soft voice how she arrived home from work about 3: 30 p.m. to find the phone lines cut and her only daughter dead on the floor of the front hall foyer.

"I ran to her and tried to shake her and get her up," she said. "I touched her face and it was cold. I saw that her lips were purple."

The trial under Judge Joseph S. Casula is expected to go to the jury by the end of the week.

Pub Date: 5/15/96

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