Appeals court affirms death penalty for handyman in '94 burglary-killing Eight arguments rejected in Debra Goodwich slaying

September 11, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The state's highest court yesterday affirmed the death sentence given last year to a Randallstown handyman in the 1994 killing of Debra Anne Goodwich, slain when she interrupted his burglary of her family's Baltimore County home.

Wallace Dudley Ball, 36, was convicted of first-degree murder by a Charles County jury in May 1996 in the slaying of Goodwich, 19, on Sept. 30, 1994. Judge Joseph S. Casula sentenced Ball to death.

In upholding Casula's sentencing, the Maryland Court of Appeals rejected eight defense arguments, including one that questioned whether the lower court erred when it refused to suppress Ball's confession to detectives.

"This Court upheld the trial court's determination that the confession was freely and voluntarily given and found no error, under Maryland nonconstitutional law, in the admission of the confession at trial," wrote Judge Howard S. Chasanow in a 51-page opinion.

A lawyer for Ball could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Goodwich case received so much news coverage during the seven-month police investigation -- which led to Ball's arrest in Knoxville, Tenn., in April 1995 -- that the case was moved to Charles County Circuit Court.

Goodwich, a Catonsville Community College student, had moved to an apartment in Baltimore three weeks before she was killed. She was visiting her family's Stevenson home to retrieve pepper spray when, police said, she apparently interrupted a burglary.

After a brief struggle, Goodwich was shot six times in the chest and arm, according to the opinion. Her mother, Arlene Goodwich, later found her daughter's body in the living room. The house had been ransacked, the telephone and alarm lines cut, and several hundred dollars and jewelry taken, police said.

The victim's car, a 1988 maroon Honda Accord, was found parked in a Randallstown-area apartment complex off Liberty Road a few days after the murder.

Ball, who had done roofing work for the family, was indicted six months later.

During the trial, prosecutors presented their case with evidence that included Ball's oral and written confessions to police. A photo of the gun -- on which Ball had signed his name and written, "This is the gun I used to kill Debbie" -- was presented.

After two hours of deliberations, the jury found Ball guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, daytime housebreaking, robbery with a deadly weapon and use of a handgun in commission of a felony.

In appealing, Ball claimed that the confession was not voluntary but was "induced by improper promises, threats and psychological coercion" by the detectives, an argument the court rejected.

Other rejected defense arguments included:

Whether the trial court erred in considering certain victim-impact evidence at the sentencing.

Whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Ball's prior convictions and nonconvictions for nonviolent offenses at sentencing.

Whether the prosecution engaged in improper closing argument at sentencing.

The appeals court determined the death sentence "was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor," Chasanow wrote.

Ball is being held at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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.