Man says defendant admitted '78 killing He describes helping dispose of bloody clothes

October 31, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Nineteen years after Mark Schwandtner's body was found in the Gunpowder Falls, a prosecution witness told a Baltimore County jury yesterday that he helped William R. Issacs ditch bloody clothes from the slaying after Issacs confessed that "we killed a guy last night."

Issacs is the first of three people to stand trial in Schwandtner's death. No one had been arrested until Issacs' longtime friend Charles H. Wilhelm told the FBI two years ago that he knew who the killers were.

Wilhelm, the key prosecution witness, told the jury that when he went to a Hampden bar on a Saturday morning in June 1978, he found his friends Issacs, John S. Derry and Ronald G. Rogers Sr. looking as if "they had been drunk."

Wilhelm said that in describing how they killed Schwandtner, 22, Issacs told him that Derry "hit the guy on the head with a bat" and that "Billy had to step on the guy's head to drown him" in the Gunpowder.

Wilhelm said they told him that the baseball bat was thrown into the Jones Falls. He said he later helped Issacs throw bloody clothes worn by the killers down a storm drain at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street, near Memorial Stadium.

Police never recovered the weapon or the bloody clothes.

Issacs, 44, is serving 2 1/2 years in federal prison on an extortion charge.

Wilhelm, a convicted drug dealer, fought back tears when he told Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry Jr. how he wanted to come clean to the FBI about his long criminal life after he found his young son crying when police raided his home in 1995.

"I'm remorseful. I was a slime ball. I was just trying to change my life," he said.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Donald Daneman attempted to discredit Wilhelm by questioning him about his illegal activities.

Wilhelm admitted being a liar, a drug dealer, a cocaine user, a bookmaker, a flimflam man, a thief, an auto arsonist and a philanderer.

"I wasn't no angel," he said.

Wilhelm -- who refused to give his address to the court, saying only that he lives out of state -- testified under cross-examination that after he had finished working as a paid FBI informer, the federal government gave him $55,000 for living expenses.

He denied Daneman's suggestion that the Baltimore County state's attorney's office gave him immunity from prosecution on arson charges in exchange for his testimony yesterday.

In earlier testimony, Patricia Hunt, a former waitress at the Hampden bar, at Keswick Road and 33rd Street -- then called Benjamin's Tavern -- recanted a statement she gave police in 1979 in which she said Issacs, Derry and Rogers were at the bar the day Wilhelm said they confessed.

Prosecutors then called a former police detective, William M. Ramsey, who testified that Issacs' sister, Susan Rogers, attempted to get Hunt to change her testimony.

Susan Rogers, formerly married to Ronald Rogers, is charged with being an accessory to murder.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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