Cell sites used to find defendant's location

Phone records from night of killing given at trial

October 22, 2004|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Prosecutors began to pinpoint yesterday the whereabouts of Tjane C. Marshall in the hours before and after they say he killed a Columbia woman.

The Howard County Circuit Court jury in the first-degree murder trial of Marshall, 28, also heard specifics about bullet fragments found near the bed where Shameka Fludd was fatally shot and the type of handgun that might have been used to kill her.

Maryland State Police firearms examiner Torin Suber said that two bullet fragments he examined from Fludd's bedroom were .22-caliber long rifle bullets. Those bullets likely were fired from a revolver, Suber added.

Suber's testimony came one day after a Howard County police detective told the jury that a former roommate of Marshall's, Rashaun Wall, led police to .22-caliber and 9 mm rounds in June of last year. Those bullets were found in a storm drain in Prince George's County after Wall signed an immunity agreement to assist in the investigation of Fludd's death.

Also yesterday, the prosecution questioned representatives of Nextel Communications, the company that serviced Marshall's cell phone, to show that Marshall took a call in the vicinity of Columbia early on May 4, of last year.

Police said Marshall, of Suitland, drove from a party in Washington to Fludd's apartment, in the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road, early May 4. Prosecutors assert that Marshall killed Fludd, a 23-year-old day care worker in Laurel, because she was going to have his child. Fludd, who had two other children, was four to five months' pregnant.

An ex-girlfriend of Marshall's, Muna Hamud, said she called Marshall on his cell phone a few times on the night of May 3 and the early morning of May 4 of last year trying to arrange a time to meet. She indicated that he answered one of those calls at 1:26 a.m. May 4.

When a cell phone customer receives or makes a call, that phone searches through a network of cell sites, or towers, to determine the best signal, said Bruce Levine, a Nextel engineer. In part for billing purposes, Nextel records the tower that an activated phone selects.

Based on a vast network of cell towers in the Baltimore-Washington region, Levine said, the maximum distance a particular cell site would pick up a phone signal, especially in a more suburban area of Howard County, would be four miles. The call from Hamud to Marshall at 1:26 a.m. was picked up by a cell site in Guilford, a neighborhood in the southern end of Columbia's Owen Brown community.

The method is not exact, however, because "a phone doesn't take the strongest signal; it takes the best one," Levine said

A witness who once resided at Fludd's Oakland Mills apartment complex said she saw "an aggravated person pacing the building" where Fludd lived between 12:45 and 1:15 a.m. May 4 of last year.

Tammy Hetrick, who traveled from Florida to testify, said she saw from the side mirror of her car, across the parking lot from Fludd's apartment, a black man wearing a hooded sweat shirt that obscured his face. The man went upstairs toward Fludd's apartment and was "up there for a while."

Prosecutors used other witnesses to show Marshall's whereabouts around the time Fludd was gunned down. Police discovered Fludd's body the evening of May 4.

Marshall showed up at a party in Washington at 10 p.m. May 3 but left some time after 11 p.m., said prosecution witness Carol Heard. Heard, Marshall and Wall, who is expected to testify against Marshall, were among several people to attend a jewelry party at the home of Marcy Thurston, Wall's girlfriend.

Almost four hours later - Hamud, a 22-year-old student at Howard University in Washington, said - Marshall, Wall and a third male picked her up near her residence in Northern Virginia.

Hamud got behind the wheel of a 1989 silver Lincoln, owned by Wall's mother, and the group was stopped by Fairfax County, Va., police about 3:15 a.m. on the Capital Beltway a few miles from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

The trial, which began Tuesday, is expected to end Thursday.

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