Two name Stewart as gunman in death of Bowie girl, 16 Defendant identified in opening testimony

November 21, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Two witnesses, including a friend of the suspect, testified yesterday that William "Danny" Stewart fatally shot a Bowie teen-ager outside a Crofton pool hall in March 1995.

The victim's friend, Robert B. Saunders, now 22 and a Hanover resident, and Rueben L. Williams, a friend of the defendant, both pointed to Stewart as the gunman during testimony in Circuit Court in Annapolis.

Stewart, 25, of the 6900 block of Hawthorne St. in Landover, Prince George's County, is being tried on a charge of first-degree murder and 11 other counts stemming from the incident.

The shooting of Catherine Elizabeth Webster, 16, of the 14000 block of Lancaster Lane, on March 20, 1995, was an act of "random and senseless violence," Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen E. Rogers said in opening statements to the jury.

Rogers said the shooting occurred when a plan to rob a Domino's Pizza employee fell through. In his testimony, Williams, 23, formerly of Landover, also said that the defendant used Williams' .357-caliber Magnum to shoot at a car as it pulled away from the Crofton Billiards parking lot off Priest Bridge Road.

He said that he, Stewart, and Stewart's brother -- Joseph L. Stewart, 22, also of Landover -- had gone to the pool hall parking lot to rob a Domino's Pizza employee as he made a night deposit at a nearby bank. The three had seen an employee do so the previous week, he said.

Another friend, Carlus Green, was along for the ride, Williams said.

The "Domino's guy" didn't appear, Williams testified.

Saunders said that shortly before 11 p.m., he drove onto the parking lot with Larry R. Laprad, then 18, and Webster. When they saw the pool hall was closed, Saunders said, he started to drive away but saw another car on the lot and someone standing beside it.

Saunders said he saw a person, whom he identified as Stewart, standing in the parking lot and slowly drove toward him to see if anyone needed help.

Saunders said when he got near, Stewart asked if he and his passengers had any "weed," then yelled at Saunders to get out and lifted his shirt to reveal what looked like a .357-caliber Magnum jammed into his waistband.

"I turned and hit the gas," Saunders testified. "I tried to get out of the parking lot."

He said he heard about four gunshots and felt a pain in his back but kept driving.

Saunders told of a frantic drive to a nearby Bowie fire station and of seeing Catherine, a friend and school mate from Bowie High, slumped motionless in the back.

She had been shot twice in the back of the head, an assistant state medical examiner testified.

On cross examination, Stewart's lawyer, L. Douglas Jefferson, challenged Saunders' and Williams' accounts.

He questioned Saunders' ability to accurately remember what happened and to identify the shooter in police photos nearly two years later.

In the weeks after the shooting, police charged and dropped charges against a man Saunders had picked out of police photos.

Saunders told Jefferson that his memory was better in February when he picked Stewart out of another group of photos than in April 1995 when he felt "very pressured" to identify someone.

Jefferson questioned Williams about the different versions of the incident he told police.

Williams and Joseph Stewart pleaded guilty in June 1997 to conspiracy to commit robbery in the case.

Williams said he agreed to testify at Stewart's trial in return for prosecutors' recommendation of a 20-year sentence to run concurrently with a 12 1/2 -year federal sentence he is serving on armed robbery and other charges.

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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