Jury in trial of father charged with slaying toddler warned that evidence will be gruesome

June 10, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury set to decide whether an emergency medical technician fatally shot his 2-year-old daughter was warned yesterday that the case will be based on both scientific and emotionally charged evidence.

Richard Allen Nicolas, 31, of Govans is being tried on first-degree murder charges in the death of Aja Nicolas, who was shot through the head in Moravia Industrial Park on July 26 as he returned the child to her mother after a night at the movies.

In opening statements yesterday, M. Cristina Gutierrez, Nicolas' lawyer, said jurors will be asked to decide her client's fate after looking at grisly photos of the dead girl's head.

"This will not be easy for any of you, to see a bullet hole through the face of a 2-year-old child," Gutierrez said. Later describing the photos, she added, "They are awful, they are gruesome, they dTC will tear you up."

Deputy State's Attorney Sharon A. H. May told jurors that Nicolas' story to police -- that a passing motorist shot into his car and killed his daughter -- was inconsistent with ballistic tests showing that the fatal shot was fired at close range. Nicolas also had gun residue on his hands at the time of the shooting, she said.

"Everything pointed to the fact that he was the one who pointed the gun that killed his own child," May said.

May said that Nicolas and the child's mother, Lisa Esbrand, conceived Aja on their first date in 1993 and that he suggested an abortion when he learned she was pregnant.

She said Nicolas also had to be taken to court and ordered to pay child support, while he spent money gun collecting.

The child was killed after Nicolas took out a $15,000 insurance policy on her life and named himself as sole beneficiary, May said.

May also emphasized that the child seemed to have a special power over the people who met her.

"She was bright, bubbly, beautiful and affectionate," May told jurors.

But Gutierrez said that Nicolas earned $45,000 a year, working as an emergency medical technician for American Ambulance Co. and as a copier repair technician at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

She said he showed up at the hospital the day his daughter was born "with balloons and flowers and cards."

"He never denied paternity. He never denied his support," she said.

She said the weapon used in the slaying was never recovered, despite an intensive police search of his house.

She also described for the jury of six men and six women how Nicolas had cradled his dead daughter in his arms after he called police to the scene the night of the shooting. Gutierrez said Nicolas could have picked up the gun residue police found on his hands when he did that.

"We live in a society where people we don't know for reasons we don't understand do violent and outrageous things," she said.

The trial, before Judge Mabel H. Hubbard, is to continue for about two weeks.

Pub Date: 6/10/97

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