Man convicted in murder of owner of Pepe's Pizza

His brother, who worked at restaurant, is scheduled to be tried next month

Wife provided key testimony

May 05, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A heroin addict who lived out of his car has been convicted of murdering and robbing the 72-year-old owner of a Falls Road pizza restaurant in July.

Michael J. Hoffman, 35, was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery in the fatal stabbing of Peter Makris, owner of Pepe's Pizza in the 6000 block of Falls Road, said Baltimore County Assistant States Attorney James O. Gentry Jr.

Gentry said Hoffman was trying to get money to buy drugs. The prosecutor said the state estimated that $10,000 to $12,000 was taken from a locked box beneath the restaurant's cash register. Makris' wallet and jacket also were missing.

A jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours Thursday night after a four-day trial, said Gentry. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert N. Dugan has not set a sentencing date.

Hoffman's brother, Martin Hoffman Jr., 39, who worked at the restaurant and lived upstairs, also is charged with murder and is scheduled for trial June 4.

The prosecution's key witness was Michael Hoffman's wife, Jennifer Hoffman, 20. At the time of the murder, the couple were living in a car they parked at Union Memorial Hospital, Gentry said.

Hoffman testified that her husband "drove the car the night of July 3 at 3:30 a.m. to Pepe's. She saw him go in the side door and was in the store five to 10 minutes, came back out and showed her a wad of money," Gentry said.

Jennifer Hoffman also testified that her husband was carrying a VCR when he left the restaurant.

After the murder, police discovered that a VCR connected to a restaurant security camera was missing. The VCR contained a video that could have shown Makris being beaten and stabbed. The VCR was never found, said Gentry.

Michael Hoffman's attorney, Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, said his client did not take the witness stand. But Tuminelli told the jury that when his client arrived at the pizza restaurant, "the murder and robbery were already completed." Martin Hoffman then gave his brother some of the money he had stolen, Tuminelli said.

Jennifer Hoffman, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact of the murder, testified against her husband as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Gentry said his office will recommend an 18-month sentence. She is scheduled to plead guilty May 29.

All three Hoffmans are being held in the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Although there was no physical evidence, such as fingerprints, to link Michael Hoffman to the murder, an employee of a McDonald's restaurant in Hampden testified that Hoffman was carrying a large wad of money when he and his wife ordered breakfast several hours after the murder.

"She described his knuckles as red, bruised and she described what appeared to be blood on his hand," said Gentry. The state medical examiner also testified that Makris suffered a cut to his right eye that was consistent "with blunt force trauma that could have been caused by a fist," said Gentry.

Tuminelli questioned the integrity of the McDonald's witness, saying that when she first talked to police, she did not mention the blood on Hoffman's hand.

Jennifer Hoffman also testified that she and her husband were "hard-core mainline addicts" of heroin, and that in the day and a half between the killing and their arrest, they bought drugs with the money stolen from Makris, Gentry said.

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