Balto. Co. jury convicts man in slaying nearly 2 decades ago

November 05, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

With no weapon, bloody clothes or matching fingerprints linking William R. Issacs to the long-unsolved slaying of Mark Schwandtner, a Baltimore County jury relied on the testimony of an FBI informant to convict Issacs yesterday of second-degree murder.

Issacs was the first of three men to be tried in the killing of Schwandtner, 22, whose beaten body was found dumped in Gunpowder Falls 19 years ago.

The jury deliberated five hours before convicting Issacs, 44, who could receive up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 22. Issacs is in federal prison, serving 2 1/2 years for extortion.

After the verdict was announced yesterday, prosecutor James O'C. Gentry Jr. said, "It was an extremely difficult case to prosecute because of the age of the case."

Defense attorney Clarke Ahlers declined to comment.

Schwandtner's slaying remained unsolved until a former friend of Issacs told the FBI two years ago that Issacs confessed in a Hampden bar to killing Schwandtner the day the young man's body was found June 10, 1978.

Prosecutors, arguing their case before Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl, relied heavily on the testimony of the former friend, Charles Wilhelm, a convicted drug dealer turned paid FBI informant, while defense attorneys questioned his honesty and motive in coming forward.

The jury also heard accusations of witness tampering. Prosecutors called a former police officer to testify that Issacs' sister tried to get a witness -- who allegedly could place Issacs at the Hampden bar the day after the killing -- to change her testimony.

Wilhelm testified that he helped Issacs throw bloody clothing down a storm drain at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street, near Memorial Stadium, after Issacs allegedly said, "We killed a guy last night."

In Issacs' defense, his lawyers brought convicted drug dealer Earl Fisher, a longtime friend of Wilhelm's, to tell the jury that it was Wilhelm, not Issacs, who killed Schwandtner.

Fisher testified that in the late 1970s, Wilhelm "said him and a guy named John committed a murder." Fisher said Wilhelm gave him no details, other than to say that the body was dumped in a wooded area.

Wilhelm told the jury "that's an absolute total lie," when asked about Fisher's statement.

Issacs took the stand in his defense, admitting to serving time in federal prison for witness tampering, extortion and obstruction of justice.

But he testified, "I have nothing to do with anybody being killed."

The two other men charged with first-degree murder are Issacs' friends, John S. Derry and Ronald G. Rogers Sr., who will be tried later.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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