Defendant says he never met, heard of '78 slaying victim Issacs proclaims innocence in testimony at murder trial

November 01, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

William R. Issacs took the witness stand in his murder trial yesterday, telling a Baltimore County jury he had never met or heard of the victim, Mark Schwandtner, whose body was found beaten in the Gunpowder Falls 19 years ago.

"I have nothing to do with anybody being killed," Issacs said, after his lawyer, Clarke Ahlers, asked him to look at Schwandtner's family in the courtroom as he proclaimed his innocence.

Earlier, jurors heard Charles H. Wilhelm -- a former friend of

Issacs who later became a paid FBI informant -- say he helped Issacs dispose of bloody clothes from the slaying after Issacs confessed to killing Schwandtner with help from two other men.

Wilhelm said on the night of the murder, June 9, 1978, the men took Schwandtner, 22, from the Holiday House, a bar in the 6400 block of Harford Road where Issacs was a bouncer.

But yesterday, Issacs testified, "I don't even know if I was working at the Holiday House" in 1978. He said he believes he had gone to work for a strip club at North Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue by then.

On cross examination, Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry Jr. tried to show to the jury that Issacs has a tendency toward violence.

After Issacs said, "I never went out and hurt anybody," Gentry asked if he had ever bitten off a boxer's lip and stepped on it.

"He wasn't hurt that bad," said Issacs, admitting, "I had a fight with a boxer and bit his lip."

Issacs also admitted that he had been convicted of obstruction of justice, extortion and witness tampering. He is serving a 2 1/2 year sentence in federal prison for extortion.

Gentry zeroed in on the witness tampering conviction, accusing Issacs of tampering with witnesses in his murder trial.

Earlier, a witness recanted her statement after she had told police and prosecutors she saw Issacs at the same Hampden bar where Wilhelm placed him the day after the murder.

A former police detective testified that Issacs' sister, Susan Rogers, tried to get the witness to change her testimony.

Susan Rogers is charged with being an accessory to murder. The two other men charged with first degree murder in Schwandtner's death, John S. Derry and Ronald G. Rogers Sr., will be tried later.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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