Ex-girlfriend says Sands gave details of robbery, killing

Her testimony considered murder case's cornerstone

March 04, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The first time her boyfriend, Tavon Donya Sands, told her he had just shot and killed a "boy," Joy Martinez said she thought he was joking.

But the second time he told her, she said she knew by the way he talked that it was "for real."

Still, Martinez testified yesterday, she lied for months - to investigators in a sworn statement and to grand jury members under oath - about statements Sands made to her in the hours and days after the fatal shooting of 23-year-old DeShawn Anthony Wallace on Jan. 25, 2002.

"I was nervous for Tavon because that's who I was with at the time. I didn't know what he wanted me to do," Martinez said at the start of the second day of testimony in Sands' murder trial in Howard County Circuit Court.

Sands, 22, of the 5400 block of Cedar Lane, is charged with first-degree murder and related charges in the death of Wallace and the robbery and attempted robbery of his brother and three friends.

Through Martinez's testimony yesterday, prosecutors provided what is expected to be the first and only direct link between Sands and the crime.

With no eyewitness identifications from the scene of the shooting in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, Martinez's accounts of her conversations and travels with Sands have been billed by prosecutors and defense attorneys as a centerpiece of the case against the Columbia man.

Not only did Sands describe the crime - that he fired the fatal shot during a robbery after "one boy" refused to obey an order to get on the ground - but he also showed her the gun he used, she testified.

Authorities found two guns, including a .38-caliber revolver, wrapped and stored the same way Martinez, 22, described in an upstairs bedroom in the house where she was staying on Lowlen Court in Ellicott City, according to testimony. A ballistics expert testified yesterday that he could not determine whether the revolver was used in the shooting.

Defense attorney Joseph Murtha noted that Martinez's account changed several times over a period of months and insinuated that she told the version she relayed to jurors only because she was afraid she would be implicated in the crime.

But Martinez, who has a daughter with Sands, said she voiced those fears only after she agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Sands was her boyfriend at the time, she said, and they planned to move away together.

"We had a baby together and were supposed to be together," she said.

Prosecutors Jim Dietrich and Kim Oldham spent much of the afternoon offering witnesses to corroborate parts of Martinez's account - from her boss at an Ellicott City sub shop who provided testimony about the hours she worked to the police officer who saw a white Cadillac parked near Martinez's home.

Martinez said Sands drove a white Cadillac and that he and his cousin cleaned and wiped down the car on the night of the killing.

A witness had testified Tuesday that he saw three men get out of a white Cadillac and walk away moments before Wallace was killed in an adjacent apartment complex in the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road.

One of Sands' cousins, Jonas L. Askins, 20, is serving 45 years in prison for his role in the robbery and shooting. A second cousin, Robert L. Burgess, 20, was also charged in the case, but prosecutors dropped all charges against him, citing insufficient evidence.

Testimony is scheduled to resume this morning.

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