Testimony begins at Metheny murder trial Mother of victim, 23, is first witness called

April 24, 1998|By Sarah Pekkanen | Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

Standing in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday, Joseph Metheny appeared to be an unsettling bundle of contradictions.

Nicknamed "Tiny," the suspected serial killer required two linked-together sets of handcuffs to pin his beefy arms behind his back. Delicate, tattooed teardrops dotted the corners of his eyes as he stared at a judge who will decide if he is guilty in the fatal stabbing of a 23-year-old woman.

Metheny, 42, who has claimed he killed up to 10 people, went on trial this week Baltimore Circuit Court in the slaying of Kimberly Spicer, who was found dead Dec. 15, 1996. The case marks the first time Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has sought the death penalty since taking office three years ago.

Last year, Metheny was acquitted of bludgeoning to death two homeless men -- both mauled with a woodcutter's ax.

In court yesterday, prosecutors called the victim's mother, Kathie Price, 44, of Southwest Baltimore as their first witness. Price described the disagreement she and Spicer had Nov. 11, 1996 -- the afternoon her daughter disappeared -- and said she looked for Spicer at friends' houses for two weeks before calling police.

"I had my church praying," Price said. "In my heart, I believed she was OK."

The second witness, Barbara McWilliams, filled in some of the blanks about what Spicer did after leaving her mother's house that November afternoon.

According to her testimony, McWilliams was sitting with a friend in Uncle Walt's Bar in the 2300 block of Washington Blvd. that evening when she was approached by a "nervous" auburn-haired woman who asked repeatedly if she could go home with her. McWilliams, who had never met the woman, turned her down.

Outside the bar, illuminated by a lamp over the door, she caught sight of a man she knew and found unfailingly polite: Metheny.

A little later, McWilliams said, she and her friend gave Metheny and Spicer a ride to the Joe Stein & Sons pallet factory in Southwest Baltimore, where Metheny lived and worked as a $7-an-hour forklift driver.

Spicer's body was found Dec. 15, 1996, under a trailer at the factory. Three days later, Metheny led police to a shallow grave on the property that held the decapitated remains of Cathy Ann Magaziner, 39. Metheny faces a separate trial in that slaying.

The final prosecution witness yesterday was an FBI agent, James Fitzsimmons, who told how the bureau had been investigating a range of alleged criminal activities at Joe Stein & Sons when they received a tip that Metheny was harboring a corpse. In July, federal agents charged Joe Edward Stein Sr., owner the pallet company, with gun violations. Stein had been convicted of arson in 1985 and theft in 1988.

Defense attorney Margaret Mead questioned Fitzsimmons about payments the FBI made to the owner's son, Joe Stein Jr., and another man, William Ashbrook, both co-workers of Metheny at the pallet company. After Ashbrook called the FBI to report that Metheny showed him a corpse, the FBI spent "approximately $25,000 on [Ashbrook's] behalf," Fitzsimmons said.

The FBI paid to put Ashbrook through a drug rehabilitation program, and covered his rent when he went into hiding as a cooperating witness. The FBI also reimbursed the owner of a house Ashbrook stayed in when the owner accused Ashbrook of stealing tools valued at $5,000.

Fitzsimmons also said the FBI spent about $94,500 to relocate Joe Stein Jr. and his family after he began cooperating with the investigation of his father's company.

Pub Date: 4/24/98

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