Cousin testifies against Moore

Teen-ager implicates man in fatal stabbing of 14-year-old girl

Columbia

January 31, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A few weeks after 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason's bloody body was found in woods behind a Columbia Pizza Hut, Frederick James Moore told his teen-age cousin, "we" killed her, the cousin testified yesterday.

During barely audible testimony marked by lengthy pauses, Danielle Ritter, 17, frequently responded, "He didn't really say" and "I can't remember."

Moore, 22, is being tried in Howard County Circuit Court on a charge of first-degree murder in Ashley's death Nov. 3, 2000.

With Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad repeating each of her halting answers for the jurors in the courtroom, a shaking Ritter testified that she was riding in a car with Moore when he told her that he and his friend Scott Jory Brill - who is also the father of Ritter's baby - had partied with Ashley the night she was killed.

They stopped on a parking lot behind the Pizza Hut, and "the girl Ashley got killed," Ritter said, her chest heaving.

When asked if Moore told her who stabbed Ashley, Ritter said, "He didn't really say." When asked if Moore told her what he had done, she said, first, "He didn't really tell me," and then, "I can't remember."

"Did he say who killed her?" Rexroad asked.

"He said, `We,'" Ritter said.

"He said, `We'?" the prosecutor repeated.

"Yes," she said.

Under cross-examination, Moore's defense attorney, Sheldon Mazelis, tried to get Ritter to say she was protecting Brill, who has been convicted of first-degree murder in Ashley's death. Ritter said she wasn't.

When Mazelis asked if Moore ever said he "stabbed" Ashley, Ritter replied, "He didn't say who stabbed her." Mazelis also questioned Ritter about medicine she was supposed to take for schizophrenia and about whether she ever heard voices - to which she answered, "Yeah."

She later told Rexroad that she wasn't seeing or hearing things the day she talked to Moore.

Ritter's statements, made during the second day of testimony in the trial, are expected to play a crucial role for prosecutors, who are trying to prove that Moore did not merely witness Ashley's killing but actively participated in the stabbing.

Unlike Brill, who spoke to investigators for hours, admitting to choking Ashley, but not all the way, and to stabbing her once in the stomach, but after she was dead, Moore gave no statement to police.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Mazelis, who has spent the past two days suggesting that Brill was the lone killer, said that his client was with Brill when Ashley was killed but said Moore's mere presence is not a crime.

Through several witnesses during the past two days, prosecutors Rexroad and Kim Oldham have attempted to link Moore to Ashley, to the knife allegedly used to kill the girl and to two nylon hair coverings found a few feet from her body.

Witnesses have testified about Moore's first introduction to Ashley at Jacks, a Long Reach restaurant; that he owned the knife, which was bought for him at a Myrtle Beach, S.C., flea market; and about his custom of wearing the hair coverings, one of which had a tear in it.

Mazelis has focused on the difference in the two men's size. Moore and Ashley were about the same height and weight, while Brill was about 8 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier.

Mazelis asked whether someone Brill's size could drag Ashley into the woods by himself. Doug Read, a Howard County police crime scene technician, testified that it would have been easier for one person to drag Ashley into the thick brush.

Testimony is expected to resume this morning.

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