Party scene one of chaos

Witnesses in killing at hotel describe arguments, gunfire

Jessup man's murder trial

Defendant's photo only one in lineup of a guest, defense says

September 20, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

In the second day of a Jessup man's murder trial in a fatal shooting at a January party in a Columbia hotel, witnesses described a chaotic scene of uninvited guests, arguments and gunfire that sent some guests jumping out a room's window.

After shots flew through two closed doors linking adjoining hotel rooms at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel, Jeff Thompson, 21, told jurors yesterday, he saw his girlfriend lying on the floor with a hole in her head.

He lay on top of Lauren Nicole Perkins, 18, of Elkridge, and looked for signs of life, he said.

"I put my head to her chest," Thompson said. "Her heart was still beating."

The shooting blinded Perkins in her left eye and killed Long Reach High School senior Andre Devonne Corinaldi, 18.

Shamal Ira Chapman, 21, is facing charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and related charges in the Howard County Circuit Court trial.

Thompson testified that Chapman made him uncomfortable by repeatedly staring at him during the Jan. 13 party at the hotel on Stanford Boulevard, resulting in him threatening the defendant.

"I told him, `Why you keep staring at me? You don't know who I am,' " Thompson said.

Thompson said Chapman laughed, and he didn't anticipate they would fight.

Lakecia Mack, the woman for whom the party was held, testified that she became upset by arguments between Thompson and Chapman and asked everyone involved to leave, but they did not.

"I got real mad," she said. "I just walked out."

The woman who organized the surprise birthday party, Tanette McMillan, 19, separated Chapman and Thompson in the adjoining rooms.

In Tuesday's opening statements, Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said McMillan, who was in the room with Chapman, saw him pull out a gun, and she ran out of the room.

After hearing the shooting, Mack said, she and other guests fled to the bathroom and then left the hotel through a window because someone said the shooter was still in the room.

Thompson said that when police arrived, he asked if he could stay.

But he was pulled off Perkins - his girlfriend of three years - and handcuffed with the rest of the partygoers.

"I kept asking, `Where's the ambulance?' " he said. "I was real upset."

Later, Thompson picked out Chapman's photo out of six others and wrote on the back of it, "looks like guy was arguing with."

But the defense has argued that Chapman, of the 6700 block of Old Waterloo Road, was not the gunman. Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere said Chapman's photo was the only one of a partygoer in the photo lineup and that witness descriptions of the shooter vary.

Some witnesses have said the shooter resembled the rapper Prodigy.

Witness estimates of the number of partygoers vary from 20 to 40, many uninvited, and those who testified yesterday said they did not know most of the guests. Some fled and returned, while others are unaccounted for, DeBoissiere said.

A weapon has not been recovered. But prosecutors are attempting to link Chapman to a .40-caliber Glock handgun, which they believe is the murder weapon and which was stolen earlier from Chapman's neighbor.

No arrests have been made in the burglary.

Earlier in the trial, Murphy said four shell casings recovered at the scene match shell casings the neighbor had before the gun was stolen.

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