Suspect in two killings confessed to acquaintance, prosecutor says

Havre de Grace man charged in shootings of Aberdeen store clerks

March 13, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Havre de Grace man charged with fatally shooting two Aberdeen convenience store clerks confessed to an acquaintance a year after the killings, a prosecutor told a Baltimore County judge yesterday.

Waylon Tenoco Wesley, 27, is being tried before Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox on two counts of first-degree murder in the March 1, 1999, killings of Melissa Pennington, 18, and Nancy Atkinson, 30, both of Aberdeen.

In opening statements yesterday, Harford County Assistant State's Attorney Vernon M. Gentile said Wesley confessed to Nicoma Nordine in March last year.

"He made admissions about his participation and his actually committing the murders," Gentile told Cox.

Nordine, 22, agreed to wear a recording device in exchange for the dismissal of various charges against him. Police taped four hours of conversations between Nordine and Wesley in March last year, according to court records.

But Larry Polen, one of Wesley's lawyers, said that police were pressured to make an arrest and that they focused on Wesley because of the "rumor mill" rampant in the "small town" of Aberdeen after the killings.

He also argued that Wesley's arrest was the result of a tip from an "unreliable source."

"People know each other, and they talk," Polen said. "Somehow within hours of the crime, people seem to have known who did it."

The victims were shot shortly after 8 p.m. during an attempted robbery at the Wawa Food Market in the 200 block of N. Philadelphia Road.

In testimony yesterday, a store customer said she saw Wesley and another man loitering near payphones outside the store about 7:45 p.m. the night of the robbery.

"He gave me a very bad look. It really scared me," said Bethany Wilson. "It was a very stern powerful look."

She testified that she left the store through a side exit to avoid the men.

Wilson said that when she learned that night from a television news report that the store had been robbed, she immediately contacted police. "I knew, I knew then and there" that the man who glared at her was involved in the robbery, Wilson testified.

She also testified that she identified Wesley from a collection of suspect photos shown to her the next day at the Aberdeen police station.

Dale Keyes, a contractor whose girlfriend had worked with the victims at the store, testified that he was in the store buying coffee when the robbery occurred.

But he told Cox that he didn't see the robber well enough to identify him.

"I heard Melissa [Pennington] say, `May I help you?' and next thing I knew Nancy [Atkinson] was pushing me down and I heard the gun go off," Keyes said.

The case was moved to Baltimore County last year at Wesley's request. Prosecutors had intended to seek the death penalty, but reversed that decision this month after a review of the evidence and discussions with the victims' relatives.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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