Girl testifies she bought knife for Moore

Prosecutors seek to tie him to evidence in killing of teen

Columbia

January 30, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A few weeks after 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason was fatally stabbed and strangled, Frederick James Moore wiped down the inside passenger side of a blue Ford Escort while his friend, Scott J. Brill, smoked a cigarette, Brill's sister testified yesterday.

"I said, `Why are you cleaning the car?'" Crystal Brill, 16, said during the first day of testimony in Moore's murder trial in Howard County Circuit Court. "He said it was dirty."

It was in that car -- and in that seat -- that prosecutors are alleging that Ashley took the last ride of her life during the early morning hours of Nov. 3, 2000.

Moore, 22, being tried on a charge of first-degree murder this week, is accused of killing Ashley and dragging her body into woods behind a Columbia Pizza Hut. She had been stabbed 34 times and strangled. Scott Brill, 19, was convicted of the same charge last fall and is awaiting sentencing.

As testimony began yesterday, prosecutors used Crystal Brill's testimony to tie Moore to what are expected to be key pieces of evidence. The teen-ager testified that she had bought a knife, the alleged murder weapon, for Moore at a flea market in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and that Moore frequently wore two hair coverings that were found a few feet from Ashley's body.

But Crystal Brill also said under cross-examination that she and her brother frequently played with Moore's knife.

While prosecutors Michael Rexroad and Kim Oldham began to build their case against Moore, defense attorney Sheldon Mazelis centered his attack on Scott Brill, portraying the Columbia man as a brute and Moore as an unsuspecting witness to a violent crime.

Brill was the larger of the two men -- 8 inches taller and about 100 pounds heavier -- and the one who hit Ashley during a party in Oakland Mills before the trio left, Mazelis said during his opening statement. Moore was scared that Brill would kill him next, Mazelis said.

Moore acknowledges that he was at the scene of the killing but did not participate, Mazelis said: "The mere presence at the scene of a crime is not a crime," he said.

Oldham pointed to the physical evidence, saying Moore's DNA profile matched samples from the hair coverings and he owned the knife, and said during her opening statement that Moore had confided to his teen-age cousin about his "participation" in the killing.

The girl's testimony is expected to play a pivotal role in the case; Moore gave no statement to police and Scott Brill's statements to investigators, which implicate Moore as the instigator in the killing, are inadmissible at this week's trial because of rules governing hearsay and a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser.

Mazelis signaled a challenge to anticipated testimony from Moore's cousin in his opening statement, alleging that she suffers from psychiatric problems and was not taking her medicine.

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