Trial opens in killing of teenage witness

Body was dumped in ditch in Curtis Bay

July 30, 2004|By Matt Whittaker | Matt Whittaker,SUN STAFF

A 19-year-old Baltimore man killed a witness set to testify against him and dumped the body in a ditch behind a strip club, prosecutors said yesterday as his trial began.

But the lawyer for Tayvon Whetstone said during opening statements that police arrested the wrong person and that Whetstone was tricked during an interview with detectives.

Prosecutors allege that in April last year, Whetstone, of the 1000 block of N. Fulton Ave., and an accomplice coaxed 17-year-old Rickey Prince into a car, drove him to a secluded area and shot him in the back of the head.

The alleged accomplice, 21-year-old Christopher Mann, is scheduled to be tried after Whetstone's trial is concluded.

Prince, of the 8100 block of Garden Drive, was listed as a witness in a murder case involving one of Mann's friends, a case involving Mann's half-brother, and a case involving Mann and Whetstone.

"This was an execution-style murder," Assistant State's Attorney Marybeth Ayres told the jury, adding that Whetstone did not have to be the shooter to be convicted of murder. "He drove there. He was in on the plan."

Whetstone's lawyer, Michael A. Jeter, said that police arrested the wrong person and that his client did not know Prince.

"The wrong individual is charged for this heinous crime," Jeter said. "He didn't have an ax to grind [with Prince]."

After Whetstone was arrested in September, he told detectives that Mann talked Prince into getting into a car at a McDonald's in Baltimore County, according to court documents and testimony yesterday by a detective who investigated the case.

Whetstone told police that he drove the trio to a secluded area and that Mann got out of the car with Prince, according to the documents and testimony. He said he heard one shot, and Mann got back into the car and said, "Let's go." Whetstone said he did not see Mann with the gun but that Mann had hidden it, according to the documents and testimony.

The detectives interviewing Whetstone "tricked him," Jeter said, by telling him that Mann and another man involved had said that Whetstone was the shooter.

"This is something so out of his character," Jeter said, asking the jury not to convict the wrong person. "It's a very, very tragic case; don't make it a double tragedy."

When Ayers presented a photograph of Prince's shirtless body lying in a ditch in a wooded area behind Fantasies Nightclub in the 5000 block of Pennington Ave. in Curtis Bay, some of his relatives cried.

One of Prince's aunts, Lynette Davis, said the 17-year-old was preparing to graduate from high school and had been accepted to a trade school.

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