Witness holds to story on slaying

Ex-girlfriend says she kept secret 3 years in fear for her life

November 04, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

In her second day on the witness stand, a woman who testified she helped David A. Dicus dump his wife's body said she kept knowledge of the death to herself for three years because "I was told that I would end up the same way if I ever told anyone."

The witness, Catherine McNicholas, held to her story about the death of Terry Lee Keefer under lengthy cross-examination in Anne Arundel Circuit Court by Dicus' lawyer, Gill Cochran.

McNicholas, despite three years of off-and-on questioning, told police her story only last fall, when authorities presented her with two choices: being charged as an accessory to murder or testifying under a grant of immunity.

Dicus, 41, of Glen Burnie, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 1995 death of Keefer, 37.

McNicholas said Dicus told her how he strangled his wife in bed before engaging her help in dumping the body in Howard County. McNicholas' testimony is considered crucial in the case.

Assistant State's Attorney Frank Ragione said she knew details that only someone involved in the crime would know.

Ragione said McNicholas can corroborate what investigators and experts will tell Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth, who is hearing the nonjury trial.

McNicholas said she moved in with Dicus a few months after his wife's death, partly because she feared him and partly because she adored his son. But she was terrified of Dicus and left in January 1996, she said.

Dicus sent her a barrage of letters. Some were entered as evidence yesterday, and though they included some sexually explicit and romantic language, none included the threats that McNicholas said Dicus made.

She testified that in April 1998 she told Cochran's paralegal that she was afraid of Dicus.

Much of the defense hinges on Cochran's efforts to discredit McNicholas. He has been trying to paint her as a liar addled by medication she was taking after suffering a stroke and psychological problems.

McNicholas -- the first witness in the case -- is to continue her testimony today.

The trial is expected to continue at least through the end of the week.

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