Defendant's children testify against him at murder trial

Youths say they witnessed grandmother's stabbing

October 08, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Two children told jurors in a Carroll County courtroom yesterday that they saw their father stab their grandmother in her Westminster home.

Leon A. Costley Jr. is charged with first-degree murder and weapons offenses in the death Aug. 14, 2002, of Helga Nicholls, his former mother-in-law, and a frequent caller to Baltimore talk-radio shows. Prosecutors have said that Costley blamed Nicholls for the collapse of his marriage with her daughter.

Brittany Costley, 13, the defendant's adopted daughter, said she was in the living room watching television when she heard screaming in the kitchen. When Brittany saw her grandmother being choked, she called 911, but dropped the phone.

"That's when I saw him get down on his knees," she testified. "That's when he pulled something out of his pocket - a knife - and stabbed her - my grandmother."

Later, Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes asked Tyler Costley, 7, how many times his grandmother was stabbed. "More than once?" the prosecutor asked.

Tyler nodded. "Twenty times," he said. Then, the boy said, "He spit on her on the stomach."

Seeing his son prompted Costley's first signs of emotion since the trial began Monday. He smiled at him with tear-filled eyes throughout his testimony.

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