Victim learned of death plot in last moments, says friend of accomplice

March 27, 1997|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

There was a moment, one of the last of her life, when Teresa Lynn McLeod may have begun to understand who really wanted her dead.

Russell Raymond Brill, staging a robbery of McLeod and her fiance, Robert Dwayne Harris, pointed a gun and prepared to kill McLeod as Harris had hired him to do, Brill's girlfriend testified yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court. But McLeod began to cry, and said: "What about my son?"

Lisa Petty testified yesterday that Brill told her he said to Harris: " 'I can't do this.' " And McLeod looked at the man she loved and said, "Rob?"

That, Petty said, was when Harris took the gun from Brill and shot his fiancee six times.

Harris, 24, is on trial charged with conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder, use of a handgun in a felony and first-degree murder in the shooting of McLeod, 27, who died Jan. 26, 1996, in a secluded parking lot on Joh Avenue, in the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood of Violetville.

Harris, who is white, was shot in the left thigh. He called 911 from a cellular phone and told a dispatcher that he and his girlfriend had just been robbed and shot by a black male wearing a camouflage jacket and black and white pants.

Police said Harris staged the robbery to collect $150,000 in life insurance, not realizing that McLeod's mother, Barbara Arthur, and 9-year-old son, Ricky, were the beneficiaries of his fiancee's policies.

Harris' attorney Rodney Gaston has told the jury that Harris sold his gun to Brill, who is white, just before the shooting, and that Brill set out to rob the couple rather than pay the money he owed for it. Gaston said Harris initially thought a black man had done the shooting because the parking lot was "pitch black" and the robber was wearing a ski mask that covered his face.

Brill, 23, pleaded guilty March 12 to first-degree murder and using a handgun in a crime of violence in McLeod's killing. He received a sentence of 50 years in prison. Brill testified yesterday that although he initially told police that he had killed McLeod after Harris promised him $20,000 to do so, it was actually Harris who shot McLeod.

Baltimore police Det. Darryl Massey said yesterday that as he processed the crime scene, he noticed McLeod was still wearing a lot of jewelry that would have been of value to a robber. Her purse was lying nearby with all of its contents inside, the detective said. Police also found a magazine for a Glock 9 mm pistol -- the same kind of gun used to shoot McLeod -- in the Ford Taurus the couple had been driving that night.

Massey testified that when he interviewed Harris after the shooting, Harris told him that he had sold a Glock to a "friend of his friend Mimi," whose name he didn't know, about two weeks before. Massey said Harris would put his fingers to the bridge of his nose when talking about the shootings and make noises as if he were crying. But when he removed his hands, there were no tears -- only redness where his fingers had been, to the point that his fingernails had made indentations in his skin.

The next morning, Massey said he received an anonymous phone call that led him to Nicholas Jantz, a friend of Brill's, and then to Brill and his brother, Joseph.

Joseph Brill took Massey to Loudon Park Cemetery in Southwest Baltimore, where they dug up a Glock pistol registered to Harris.

Harris was arrested the next day.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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