Husband on trial in slaying of wife's boyfriend

Police say he confessed without being asked

January 17, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

When John Ragins was arrested after a fatal stabbing in Woodlawn in August, he immediately told police not only how he committed the homicide but why, a Baltimore County officer testified yesterday.

"He said that he observed his wife in bed with another man," Officer Roderick Brownley told a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge. Ragins, 45, of Woodlawn said that he acted in self-defense during a struggle with the man.

He is charged with killing Thomas Brown, 36, of Randallstown about 2 a.m. Aug. 19 at the home Ragins formerly shared with his wife in the 5400 block of Gradin Ave. in Woodlawn.

Judge Robert E. Cadigan ruled yesterday that Ragins' admissions - to Brownley and in a later interview with Detective Amy Prime - could be used as evidence at his trial, scheduled to begin Feb. 13.

Ragins is charged with first-degree murder.

Brownley testified yesterday that he stopped Ragins along Gradin Avenue about a block from the scene because he matched the description of a suspect broadcast moments after the stabbing.

Brownley testified that he arrested Ragins, read him his rights and put him in his patrol car. He said that Ragins started talking without being questioned.

"He was very cooperative. He basically proceeded to tell me everything that happened," Brownley said.

Ragins said his son told him in a phone conversation that the victim was at the home that night. He said he went there, armed with a knife, to get his belongings and was let in by his son, according to Brownley's testimony.

Ragins said he found Brown with his estranged wife, Clarice Ragins, according to testimony. Brown pulled a penknife on Ragins and Ragins said that he stabbed Brown during a fight, Brownley testified. "He said that he grabbed his knife to defend himself," Brownley told Cadigan.

Ragins' attorney, Christine Gage-Cohen, argued that Ragins' statements to the police that night were involuntary. She focused her questions to Brownley and to Prime on whether they knew if Ragins was drinking that night and why none of his statements was recorded.

But Cadigan said that didn't matter. "The evidence is uncontradicted that there was no force or coercion of this defendant," Cadigan said.

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