Howard County police charged a second man yesterday in the stabbing death of a 14-year-old Columbia girl whose body was found Nov. 3 in woods behind a shopping plaza.
Police said the suspect, Scott Jory Brill, 18, of the 5700 block of Sweetwind Place in the Long Reach village of Columbia, confessed this week to choking Ashley Nicole Mason before she died. He also admitted to stabbing her once in the abdomen after she had been dragged into the woods behind a Pizza Hut near Route 108 and Bendix Road in Columbia, police said.
But Brill maintains that the first suspect charged in the case, his friend, Frederick James Moore, 21, initiated the stabbing that caused Ashley's death, police said.
"I was just a witness," Brill said yesterday upon entering Howard County District Court in Ellicott City, when asked whether he had stabbed the girl.
Brill was charged with first-degree murder, which can carry the death penalty, and denied bail by a court commissioner. He was being held at the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup; a bail review hearing is scheduled Tuesday morning.
News of the charge came as a relief to Ashley's mother, Chrystal G. Mason.
"There are such emotions going through me right now," she said.
Based on interviews, police said, they believe Ashley had known Moore and Brill for a short while after moving to Long Reach from western Howard County this year and had left a party with them the night she died.
The police said an autopsy showed the cause of death was stabbing, with evidence of strangulation.
In the weeks after the killing, police received more than 100 tips from callers -- including two anonymous tips that led them to Brill and Moore, who has addresses in Long Reach and Baltimore.
On Dec. 15, police interviewed Brill, who told them he had watched Moore stab Ashley to death but denied any role in the killing, police said. They charged Moore with first-degree murder the next day.
Police received additional tips this week alleging that Brill had confessed to taking part in the slaying. In a second interview this week, arrest documents state, Brill admitted to choking Ashley and stabbing her once in the stomach after Moore had stabbed her.
What remains a mystery, police said, is a motive for the killing. "It is the question we want answered," police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.
Brill was in jail before yesterday's charge, accused of violating probation last week on a weapons possession conviction. Moore is being held in Anne Arundel County to keep the two apart, police said.
Brill is awaiting a District Court trial in January on charges of second-degree assault and destruction of property, according to court records.
Court records show that a Columbia woman obtained a court-issued restraining order in August, forbidding Brill to contact her.
Some of Brill's neighbors on Sweetwind Place said yesterday that police had paid several visits over the years to the Brill family's house in Long Reach.
The neighbors, who asked not to be identified, said the Brill family moved to the block about six years ago and that Scott Brill had attended Howard High School.
Attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful.
Chrystal Mason said she didn't recall ever seeing Brill in her daughter's company.
She said she hopes prosecutors will pursue a life sentence, not the death penalty, against the defendants if they are convicted.