Testimony places suspect at scene of 1993 killings

Defense lawyers say convict is lying to gain a sentence reduction

July 16, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A friend of two women slain in 1993 in a Severn home gave prosecutors yesterday the most damning words against Darris A. Ware, the man accused in the killing: The friend told an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury that while on the telephone with one of the victims, he learned that Ware was at the house, then heard screams and gunfire before being disconnected.

Edward Love Anderson's testimony is critical: Only it puts Ware, 28, at the scene, linking him to the fatal gunshots. No physical evidence, such as fingerprints, places Ware there.

Anderson, who has been serving life plus 10 years for a 1989 murder conviction, was among the last witnesses to testify before the prosecution rested in the fourth day of testimony. Ware is on trial for the Dec. 30, 1993, killings of his former fiancee, Betina "Kristi" Gentry, 18, and her friend, Cynthia V. Allen, 22, at the Gentry home in the 1900 block of Bastille Court. If convicted, Ware could face the death penalty -- again.

The former Navy seaman from Fort Pierce, Fla., was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995. The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the verdict because prosecutors did not tell the defense that a Baltimore County judge was reserving a decision on whether to cut Anderson's life sentence until after Anderson testified in the Ware case, nor did they say that a deputy state's attorney and an Anne Arundel detective testified at Anderson's Baltimore County hearing.

Although Anderson's testimony was much the same as in the first trial, defense attorneys used the still-pending bid for a sentence reduction bid and other circumstances to try to portray him as a liar with a motive to lie now.

This week, prosecutors called witnesses who described how the relationship between Ware and Gentry had soured and how possessive Ware had become of Gentry. Witnesses said that on the morning of the murders, Ware had been at the Gentry home, had fought with her and struck her in the face. The victim's brother, Kevin Gentry, had kicked Ware out of the house, they said, and Ware aimed a gun at Kevin Gentry, but it was not loaded.

About noon that day, Anderson said, he called the Gentry home from the Maryland House of Corrections Annex. He spoke with Allen, with whom he has a child. After about 25 minutes, he said, Allen told him, "Oh no, Darris is here." He said he heard Kristi Gentry scream, and Allen told him "Darris and Kristi are fussing."

Minutes later, Gentry screamed again, Anderson testified.

"It was different from the first one, more of a panic," he said.

"I heard two gunshots, then there was a pause and I heard a third gunshot. After I heard the first two gunshots there was no more screaming," Anderson said. Then, he said, Gentry's receiver was hung up. He frantically called a neighbor's house, asking someone to check on Allen and Gentry.

The neighbor, Clyburn Cunningham Jr., testified that he walked over about 1 p.m., but nobody answered at the Gentry home.

Nina Gentry, Kristi's mother, found the victims about 1 p.m.

Assistant public defender Rodney Warren contended that Anderson lied to police about his own crime and now was hoping favorable testimony would shorten his sentence.

Warren also contended that Anderson is lying when he says he and Gentry were only friends. He read excerpts of a letter from Anderson to the teen-ager that police took from Gentry's living room:

"And I really would like to truthfully know how long you have been entertaining the thoughts you expressed to me on the phone, e.g., having my children, me living with you and your thoughts about what it would be like marrying me," the letter said.

"And you and Kristi were just friends?" Warren demanded.

Anderson stuck to his description.

The trial will resume Monday with the defense presenting its side. Defense lawyers said they were unsure whether Ware would testify.

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