No `cast of angels' in trial of suspect in '98 killing

Defense implicates co-defendant in death

March 07, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The trial of a 23-year-old Baltimore man charged with murder opened yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court with his defense attorney arguing that another man shot and killed Donald R. Mitchell in a North Laurel apartment more than a year ago.

The attorney, Joseph Murtha, also foreshadowed a trial that could rest largely on the word of a drug dealer and possibly a co-defendant charged with assault and robbery.

"This case doesn't include a cast of angels," Murtha said.

Charged with murder is Randall Bagley, who is accused of entering the apartment on Dec. 10, 1998, with two other men and killing Mitchell, 43, a man fighting drug addiction and who was about to start a new job.

Prosecutors argued that Bagley and the other men were going to steal drugs and money from the apartment but their robbery went awry, leading to the killing of an innocent man.

Assistant State's Attorney Keith Cave said Mitchell was simply visiting his friend, Donovan Bowen, 29, that night at Bowen's cousin's apartment in the 9500 block of Sylvan Still Road.

Earlier, Bagley and another man cased the apartment planning to rob Bowen of drugs and money, Cave said. At 9 p.m., joined by a third accomplice, they knocked on the door and entered.

As Bowen turned to get his drugs for the sale, he heard a gunshot, Cave said. As Bowen swung around, he saw Bagley holding a gun and noticed that his friend, Mitchell, had been shot.

The robbers took Bowen outside and said they were going to kill him, Cave said. Bowen decided to run, Cave said, and knocked the gun out of Bagley's hand. As Bowen successfully fled, one of the robbers pointed a handgun at him and tried to fire -- but the weapon jammed.

Arrested within weeks were Kevin A. Lee, 21, and Patrick Sean Gardner, 17. Lee, charged with assault and robbery, is expected to testify against Bagley this week and plead guilty this month to unspecified charges.

Gardner is accused of trying to shoot Bowen and faces charges as an adult of attempted murder, assault and kidnapping. His trial is scheduled for March 28.

It took several months for police to arrest Bagley, who had fled to the Norfolk, Va., area, Cave said.

When police apprehended him, Bagley gave two tape-recorded statements. In one of them, he lies about his involvement in the crime, Cave said. In the other, "he admits that he set up Donovan Bowen," Cave said.

In the statements, Bagley also says that Gardner was the shooter -- a point emphasized by Bagley's lawyer, Murtha, who said, "Randall Bagley did not shoot Mr. Mitchell; Patrick Gardner shot Mr. Mitchell."

Murtha also asked jurors not to trust Bowen because he was a drug dealer and initially lied to police about his involvement in drug trafficking. "He had an interest in the outcome of the case," Murtha said, referring to Bowen. "He had an interest in making sure he wasn't ultimately charged" with drug dealing.

Murtha argued that no witnesses actually saw the shooting.

Yesterday, Mitchell's wife, Irie, testified. She said that Mitchell had left their Columbia home about 7 p.m. to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting and said he would be back a few hours later.

A college graduate with degrees in biology and chemistry, Mitchell had been working for a biotechnology firm but had been unemployed for about six weeks. He was about to start another job, Irie Mitchell said.

About 3 a.m., she said, police knocked on the door of her home in Harper's Choice and told her that her husband had been killed.

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