Way is clear for witness' testimony in murder trial

Deli customer had named suspect in Oct. shooting


March 24, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Norman Harcum figures he was just a few feet from Jessup deli owner Kwang Jun Kim as Kim struggled with two assailants at the entrance of his Washington Boulevard business Oct. 8. His proximity, he said, gave him a "good look" at what was taking place.

When a detective showed him a photographic lineup several days later, Harcum said Walter James Blannon looked like the larger of the two assailants - the same man he believed fatally shot Kim, 53.

"When I looked at the picture, he was right there," Harcum, a deli customer about the time of the shooting, testified yesterday during a hearing in Howard Circuit Court. " ... I mean, I was only 3 feet away from him."

Defense attorneys offered Harcum's testimony yesterday, as well as a tape of an interview he gave police, in an attempt to convince Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley that Harcum's identification of Blannon, 38, should be suppressed. Blannon's public defender, Janette DeBoissiere, argued that the identification was tainted by the detective's actions and Harcum's apparent belief that the perpetrator's picture would be in the array.

Dudley disagreed, effectively giving prosecutors the go-ahead to offer the testimony at Blannon's trial June 28.

Yesterday's motions provided an eyewitness account of the events leading up to Kim's death - a killing that authorities said started with a high-stakes robbery. Blannon and a second man, Reginald Venable Jr., 47, are accused of wrestling a money bag filled with $125,000 from Kim, who also ran a check-cashing business, before the fatal shot was fired.

The killing precipitated a police chase through Howard and Baltimore counties and into Baltimore City, where a Baltimore County officer shot and wounded Venable after the Baltimore man pointed a gun at him, authorities said.

Blannon, of the 1600 block of N. Calvert St. in Baltimore, and Venable, of the 800 block of E. 33rd St., have been charged with first-degree murder and related charges in the incident. Venable's case is scheduled for trial April 12.

While Harcum told investigators he did not get a good look at the smaller of the two men, he said he got a better look at the heavier man. He had seen the same man in the deli, staring at Kim, a few weeks before the robbery, he testified.

On Oct. 8, Harcum said, he had just walked inside Jessup Plaza Deli & Convenience when he heard Kim's wife say, "Stop, stop, stop." Harcum told investigators that he turned around and watched as the smaller of the men wrestled the money bag away while the larger man restrained Kim.

Harcum said he saw Kim reach around his back for something - the deli owner usually carried a gun, he said - and then Harcum heard a "pop" and saw the heavier man walk away. The smaller man was already at a car, a gold-colored Chevrolet Malibu, Harcum told investigators during the taped interview.

But he told an investigator that he saw "no guns."

Police recovered a .357-caliber revolver containing two spent shell casings from the Malibu, as well as a money bag containing $125,000 and bank deposit slips with the name of Kim's business, according to charging documents. A .32-caliber weapon was found on the ground near Venable after the officer shot him, the documents state.

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