Slaying suspect waives jury trial

DNA links him to 2002 killings of two Glen Burnie women

Abend, 42, pleads not guilty to crimes

He could face death penalty if convicted of capital murder

Anne Arundel

September 23, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

A Glen Burnie man waived his right to a trial on murder charges that could bring the death penalty and agreed yesterday to a prosecution statement that DNA evidence linked him to the slaying of his landlady and her daughter-in-law in 2002.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North said she would review that statement and additional materials from prosecutors and lawyers for Kenneth E. Abend, 42. She will decide Oct. 28 whether Abend is guilty and, if so, of what crimes and whether he is eligible for the death penalty.

Abend is charged in the January 2002 shooting deaths of Laverne M. Browning, 70, and Tamie C. Browning, 36, both of Glen Burnie.

At an emotional hearing yesterday attended by the victims' families, he pleaded not guilty to the killings and submitted a statement of facts agreed to by defense lawyers and prosecutors. In the statement, Abend did not challenge key components of the prosecution's case.

The move appeared to be the latest effort by defense lawyers to spare their client the death penalty.

As a record of the court, the statement stands in place of witness testimony that would have been heard at a jury trial and is considered evidence in the case.

In the report, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that both victims' blood was found in Abend's apartment and on his clothes, and that it could be used to convict him on murder charges. It also reveals that a partially smoked Newport cigarette containing traces of Abend's DNA was recovered from Laverne Browning's black Chevrolet Monte Carlo, where the gun used in the crime was also found. A bloody handprint lifted from the trunk of Tamie Browning's white sedan - where the women were found dead - is an identical match to a print taken from Abend's left palm, the report says.

Court records show that Abend was first suspected of killing the women shortly after the killings took place. They give this account:

On Jan. 13, 2002, a day after the killings, Abend went to an acquaintance's house, asked to "hide out" and then confessed to "doing something bad" to his landlady. The acquaintance, Hector Silva, called police to report the incident, which led them to connect the information to a missing person report filed by Randy Browning, the husband of Tamie Browning.

Police conducted a search of Laverne Browning's house, where Abend had rented a basement apartment, and found blood stains and spent shell casings. Police later found the victims' bodies stuffed into the trunk of the younger woman's car.

As Assistant State's Attorney Frank J. Ragione read aloud the report, which contained grisly details about the deaths and the women's autopsies, relatives of the victims wailed.

Afterward, Abend's legal team requested that North postpone her decision in the case.

North granted their request and agreed to receive follow-up briefs from the defense and prosecutors before making a ruling next month.

Ragione had no comment about the court proceedings or the case, for which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said yesterday that he was surprised by Abend's decision to waive his rights to a jury trial, especially in light of the fact that the defendant faces capital murder charges. Weathersbee said he did not know why Abend and his lawyers chose to proceed with the case in such a manner.

Harry Trainor Jr., one of Abend's lawyers, declined to comment yesterday on the statement of facts and his client's decision to enter a not guilty plea.

Relatives of the victims declined to comment after yesterday's hearing.

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