Slaying suspect on trial in attempted murder

November 06, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Wearing mostly blank stares on his face and dressed in a plain gray sweat shirt and sweat pants, Joseph R. Metheny, a serial killing suspect, went on trial yesterday in the only case against him in which the alleged victim survived.

Metheny is charged with assaulting, kidnapping and attempting to rape and murder 37-year-old Rita Kemper early Dec. 8.

The case is a prelude to murder charges that Metheny will face next month.

Police say Metheny told them he killed as many as 10 people. The state is seeking the death penalty for the killings of two women whose bodies were found near his home -- a trailer in 3200 block of James St. near Washington Boulevard in Southwest Baltimore.

Catherine Flynn, one of Metheny's attorney's, said he is pleading not guilty to the killings for which he could be sentenced to death, but declined to discuss the basis of his plea.

It was in Southwest Baltimore that several of the crimes occurred and where Metheny, 41, hung out in bars, lived with bands of homeless men and spent almost all of his $7-an-hour wages as a forklift driver on crack, heroin and Southern Comfort, according to police.

In opening arguments and testimony yesterday, a similar story was told about the night of Dec. 8 when Kemper visited Metheny's trailer.

Vickie L. Wash, an assistant state's attorney who is a co-prosecutor, described Metheny as an addict who shared drugs with Kemper. But on Dec. 8, Metheny wanted sex, Wash said.

When Kemper refused, she ran out of the trailer, and Metheny chased her, Wash said in her opening arguments. When Metheny caught her, he beat her and choked her, Wash told the jury.

Wash alleges that Metheny dragged Kemper back to the trailer, pulled her pants down and tried to rape her before she escaped through a window and reached police officers in the area. While escaping through the window, Kemper cut herself on a barbed-wire fence, Wash said.

Margaret A. Mead, one of Metheny's lawyers, countered that prosecutors were taking a simple dispute between the two and having it "blown up to include attempted murder, kidnapping, attempted rape."

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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