Alternate suspects developed by defense

Conflicting testimony in fatal shooting case

September 27, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The defense attempted yesterday to draw attention to two other possible suspects in a fatal hotel shooting in Columbia as the murder trial of a 21-year-old Jessup man moved toward its close.

Kendall Jackson, 18, testified yesterday that he was standing in a hotel bathtub with the accused when the shooting happened and knew the defendant was not responsible. He said he didn't see who fired the shots or where they came from.

Jackson was the last witness as the defense concluded its case. Jury deliberations are expected to begin today in the Howard County Circuit Court trial that began Sept. 18. The defendant, Shamal Ira Chapman, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and related charges.

Chapman, of the 6700 block of Old Waterloo Road, is accused of shooting a gun through two closed doors between adjoining rooms during a surprise birthday party at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Stanford Boulevard.

Long Reach High School senior Andre Devonne Corinaldi, 18, was killed in the Jan. 13 shooting, and Lauren Nicole Perkins, 18, of Elkridge was seriously injured.

The state's key eyewitness, 19-year-old Tanette McMillan, testified Monday that she saw Chapman pull a gun from his jacket pocket and cock it just before the shooting.

Jackson testified yesterday that he went to the party with Chapman and four other men. Jackson said that 22-year-old Lorence Smith - who had testified last week that he didn't attend the party - came with them in another car.

Jackson said arguments broke out at the party and guests were separated between the two rooms. He said he heard banging and yelling from the other side of the doors and headed toward the bathroom when he saw Smith coming out of it.

Jackson said he didn't tell police about Smith's attendance at the party because Smith had threatened him, saying, "I don't want my name mentioned. I know exactly where you live."

He said he disclosed the information about Smith to Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere toward the end of the summer when he learned that Smith would be testifying against Chapman.

"I knew [Smith] was telling a lie," Jackson said.

Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy asked Jackson why he didn't testify during a grand jury hearing in February that Smith was at the party. She pointed out that Jackson was told the hearings are kept secret.

Jackson again said he was concerned about Smith's threat.

Murphy also asked Jackson why he told the grand jury that nobody discussed the shooting during the car ride home after the party, but he testified yesterday that he had asked if anyone knew who was responsible for the crime.

"It was really the time in the car, wasn't it, when you all discussed what you were going to say? You wanted to protect Shamal," Murphy said.

Jackson responded that wasn't true.

Howard County Detective Nathan Rettig, who interviewed Jackson in February, also testified yesterday that Jackson did not tell him Smith was at the party.

Defense attorney DeBoissiere has said she believes Smith is the most likely gunman because he knew details of the robbery in which the suspected murder weapon - a .40-caliber Glock handgun that was never recovered - was stolen from Chapman's neighbor.

Smith testified last week that Chapman told him he stole the Glock and also confessed to the shooting. No arrests have been made in the Feb. 3, 2000, burglary.

Another defense witness also testified yesterday that someone else had claimed responsibility for the shooting. Don Thomas testified he was staying in a fourth-floor room at the hotel the night of the shooting and saw Brian Andrew Mack, 17, go to the party. He said he didn't know Mack at the time but had seen him around the neighborhood.

Thomas said Mack later approached him and his girlfriend in front of his girlfriend's apartment.

Thomas said Mack told him he had been standing in the bathroom of the hotel room and shot through the double doors. Mack then displayed a "big black gun," Thomas said.

"I didn't believe it until he showed me the gun," Thomas said.

Thomas said he was concerned about testifying because he feared Mack. He said Mack had "threatened my life" minutes before he entered the courtroom yesterday.

Murphy asked Thomas why he didn't contact police after hearing that Chapman had been arrested if he thought Mack was responsible for the shooting. Thomas answered that he thought Mack's confession was "say so."

But Mack testified yesterday that he didn't attend the hotel party or tell anyone he was responsible for the shooting. He said he tries "to stay as far away from guns as I can."

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