Witnesses link defendant to gun, victim in killing

Trial expected to end tomorrow for suspect in Columbia hotel shooting

September 23, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

After offering potentially damaging evidence Friday, the state is expected to end its case tomorrow against a Jessup man charged in a fatal hotel shooting in Columbia.

Shamal Ira Chapman, 21, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and related charges in a fatal shooting Jan. 13 during a party at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Stanford Boulevard.

Chapman, a resident of the 6700 block of Old Waterloo Road, is accused of firing a handgun through the two closed doors between the adjoining hotel rooms where the party was held.

Andre Devonne Corinaldi, 18, a Long Reach High School senior, was killed in the incident and Lauren Nicole Perkins, 18, of Elkridge was seriously injured.

Witnesses testified about a chaotic party scene, with an estimated 20 to 40 guests -- many uninvited.

When the four shots were fired, some guests fled the hotel through windows, witnesses said.

The prosecution contends the shooting occurred after an argument between Chapman and Jeff Thompson, 21, who testified he was upset because Chapman repeatedly stared at him during the party. Thompson did not know Chapman and threatened him, he testified.

Tanette McMillan, 19, who was throwing the party, separated the two men, putting one in each room, because they were upsetting other guests, Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said during opening arguments.

McMillan, in the room with Chapman, was standing near the doors connecting the two rooms when she saw Chapman pull out a gun, and she then ran to the front desk for help, Murphy told the jury. She is expected to testify tomorrow.

Perkins testified that she didn't recall the shooting and only remembers "waking up at the hospital and asking my dad what happened to me."

She was shot in the head and is now blind in her left eye. She said she had to undergo operations to remove bone fragments and the bullet from her head and expects further surgery.

The defense contends Chapman was not the gunman and that witness descriptions of the shooter are inconsistent.

Despite not having recovered the weapon, believed to be a .40-caliber Glock handgun, the prosecution offered three witnesses who gave testimony linking the defendant with a similar handgun.

Lorence Smith, 22, a friend of Chapman's, testified that Chapman told him he stole a gun during a robbery and that he always carried the gun with him or in his car.

The handgun was taken from Chapman's neighbor's house Feb. 3 last year, Murphy said. No arrests have been made in the burglary. Four shell casings recovered at the scene of the shooting match casings from the stolen gun, Murphy said.

Carmen Steele, 15, testified that hours before the hotel party, she was "play fighting" with Chapman, her neighbor, when she took out a pocket knife and he then pulled a gun on her and held her up against his car. Steele testified that Chapman kept the black gun in his car in the compartment between the driver's and passenger's seats.

Nicole Groves, 19, testified that the week before the shooting, she and her friend ran into Chapman while shopping at the Target store in Columbia Crossing. An argument ensued, and the women went to their car when Chapman approached them and pulled out a gun.

Assistant Public Defender Rodney Gray asked Groves why she didn't contact police immediately after the incident. She picked up food at a fast-food restaurant and then went home. Her mother later contacted police. Groves said she asked her mother not to call police because she was afraid of Chapman.

Smith also offered key testimony that Chapman confessed to him shortly after the killing. He said Chapman told him he argued with some of the partygoers, shot through the adjoining doors and thought he might have hit a guest.

Smith said Chapman got rid of his car because he thought police were following him.

Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere tried to discredit Smith's testimony by discussing a burglary Smith is accused of committing. She said the crime is similar to the one Smith claims Chapman committed.

During cross-examination, Smith acknowledged that he has been charged in the May burglary of a trailer in Laurel in Anne Arundel County, where nine guns were stolen. Smith, who said he did not commit the burglary, also acknowledged that one of the stolen guns was recovered from his bedroom. He has not been tried on the charge.

Judge James B. Dudley had ruled that this information would not be allowed in court, but changed his mind.

Smith also testified he has a "working knowledge" of guns and usually carries a 9 mm or a .380-caliber handgun. He said he has fired a Glock only "once or twice."

DeBoissiere, who has said she believes that Smith most likely was the gunman, asked him, "You were not at the Marriott when you fired it?"

Smith responded, "Correct."

Smith testified he did not attend the hotel party and was at home, but DeBoissiere plans to offer witnesses who place him at the scene.

Howard County Detective Nathan Rettig testified that Chapman told him what he viewed as a confession after he arrested the defendant Jan. 18. Rettig said he was trying to "build a rapport" with Chapman while driving the suspect to the police station by asking him about school and work.

Rettig said he did not advise Chapman of his rights because he wasn't planning to question him about the crime. But about 10 minutes into the trip, Rettig testified, Chapman told him that the officers who searched his family's home were "smooth" and that "I'm glad everybody kept their cool. I would've hated to see one of my brothers get hurt for something I did."

Before the trial, DeBoissiere had attempted to bar the statement, saying the detective was only trying to get Chapman to talk. She argued that allowing the statement would reward officers "for crossing the line."

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