Baltimore County jurors began deliberating last night in the case of two men accused of robbing a Randallstown woman in her apartment and then fatally shooting her outside after she tumbled off her balcony.
Shawn E. Gardner, 26, of Chase and Aaron D. Holly, 19, of Catonsville are facing murder, armed robbery and handgun charges in the June 7, 2002, death of Tanya Jones-Spence, 28 - a killing that prosecutors and witnesses said was the unintended result of a plan to rob and kill her husband.
Gardner and Holly were arrested within blocks of the shooting in the 8600 block of Bramble Lane several minutes after the incident.
Investigators spent two weeks combing a wooded area that two suspects were seen leaving and found Jones-Spence's cellular telephone, latex gloves and two guns - including the .357 revolver used to shoot the victim, according to testimony.
"Tanya Jones-Spence was a 28-year-old woman with two young children, and she did not deserve to die at the hands of Aaron Holly and Shawn Gardner," said Assistant State's Attorney Rachel Cogen.
But defense attorney Larry Polen, who represents Gardner, said the state's scenario is flawed, and that the killing was planned by an admitted mastermind who was "able to manipulate the system."
William Montgomery, 24, who has been found guilty in a city homicide, negotiated an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in return for a promise to provide information about crimes, including the Randallstown homicide, according to testimony.
In Baltimore County Circuit Court, Montgomery said he set up a plan to kill Darius Spence, not his wife, according to testimony.
Defense attorneys for both men said that despite extensive forensic testing, the only thing investigators found was gunshot residue on Holly's pants pocket. And there was too little time for the men to run through the woods and hide the guns, said Polen and Janice Bledsoe, who represents Holly.
"It just doesn't click, this case," Polen said.
But prosecutors said the evidence - including cellular phone records and the men's presence in an unfamiliar neighborhood - points to Holly and Gardner.
A third man charged in the case, Jamane A. Johnson, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit robbery and received a 15-year suspended sentence and five years' probation. Prosecutors said Johnson told Montgomery where Spence lived.
Gardner also is facing federal racketeering charges filed earlier this year.