Brill said to tell of killing

He described choking, stabbing girl, 14, acquaintance testifies

1st-degree murder charge

Expert witness says strangling came first in causing death

October 25, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Scott Jory Brill admitted choking Ashley Nicole Mason, helping his friend drag the 14-year-old girl into the woods and stabbing her in the head with a buck knife, a Columbia man testified yesterday.

In the hours after Ashley's death Nov. 3, Brill and Frederick James Moore returned to the Basket Ring Road home where Martice Stewart lived and rushed inside, Stewart said during the third day of testimony in Brill's murder trial.

It was there that Brill, 19, talked about the killing, Stewart said: that he strangled Ashley using his forearms, that he helped Moore pull the girl into the woods behind the Pizza Hut at Route 108 and Bendix Road even though he was "tired" and that he admonished Moore not to "start" what he couldn't "finish."

"He said he finished her off as well because [Moore] couldn't do all the work by himself," Stewart, 20, said. He said Brill had no blood on him, but Moore had blood on his boots and pants.

Brill, of the 5700 block of Sweetwind Place in Columbia, is charged with first-degree murder. Moore's trial on the same charge is scheduled to begin Nov. 7.

Stewart's statements -- coupled with Brill's admission to investigators that he choked the 14-year-old -- came amid expert testimony that added weight to evidence that Ashley was not only stabbed 34 times but strangled as well.

Based on findings at the autopsy, Ashley's killers would have choked her first, Dr. Jack M. Titus, a deputy state medical examiner, testified. And based on the pinpoint hemorrhages found on her face and eyelids, she was choked long enough to render her unconscious, Titus said.

The stabbing, which severed the carotid arteries on both sides of her neck and a jugular vein and fractured her skull, came later, he said. The stab wounds to the stomach were inflicted while she was still alive, he said, because there was internal bleeding -- an indication that Ashley had a pulse at the time. Brill told investigators he stabbed Ashley once in the stomach "after she was dead."

Titus, who ruled both stabbing and strangulation as the cause of death, said he found no defensive wounds on her body to show that she put up a fight, a normal reaction to such an attack.

There was evidence of sexual activity, he said, but not of any injury to the genitals. Brill told investigators that Moore said he stabbed Ashley after raping her, according to transcripts of Brill's interviews with police. Brill maintained in his statements to police that Moore was the prime actor in the slaying.

Prosecutors rested their case after Titus testified and Brill's lawyer, Warren A. Brown, offered no additional witnesses. Closing arguments before Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who is trying the case instead of a jury, are scheduled to begin this morning.

Yesterday, prosecutors offered testimony by Titus to detail the significance of Ashley's wounds and from Stewart to bolster Brill's admissions to police -- admissions that Brown has repeatedly called unreliable because they changed so frequently.

Stewart also gave an account of "commotion" at his house just before Ashley, Brill and Moore left an impromptu get-together there.

While those in the house were in the basement drinking brandy, Ashley said she wanted to go home, prompting Brill to say, "I'm not no chauffeur" and punch Ashley in the face, Stewart said. He went upstairs, and later heard Brill say he would take Ashley home, Stewart said. Under cross-examination, Brown noted that Stewart did not call 911 after Brill returned and allegedly told him what happened and that Stewart's statement changed the second time he was questioned by police. Stewart said Brill threatened him.

Also yesterday, a DNA analyst for Cellmark Diagnostics in Germantown testified that Moore's and Brill's DNA profiles could not be "excluded" as sources of samples on the wood handle of a knife containing Ashley's blood, and that Brill's DNA also could not be excluded from a swabbing taken from Ashley's left ankle. Moore's DNA was also found on a nylon doo rag, or hair covering, found in the woods near Ashley's body.

Although analysts can determine the primary source of DNA, Jacki Higgins of Cellmark said secondary sources are determined as "excluded" or "not excluded" based on tests that match up nine different areas on various DNA samples.

The likelihood that a person is the source of the DNA increases with the more areas, or "loci," that match, she said.

Ashley's boyfriend, Jason Valcourt, also came up as a possible DNA match on a swabbing from Ashley's right ankle. Prosecutors have offered evidence that the socks Ashley was wearing the day she was killed were not hers; it was unclear yesterday whether the socks belonged to Valcourt.

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