Trial under way for man accused in the '03 killing of a deli owner

Baltimorean is charged in shooting at strip mall


February 02, 2005|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

As Daniel Byrne worked at the Shell gas station in Jessup on the morning of Oct. 8, 2003, he heard a loud bang and rushed outside.

He saw a gold-colored car speed past the gas pumps, drive onto U.S. 1 and turn onto Route 175. He saw the license plate and wrote it down on the back of his left hand: LTM 792.

He looked across the parking lot of a strip mall and saw Kwang Jun Kim, who owned a deli in the center, lying on the parking lot, bleeding from the head with his wife cradling him in her lap.

Yesterday, Byrne told his story in Howard County Circuit Court as the man who police say was driving the car, Walter J. Blannon, 39, of Baltimore, faced his first day of trial on first-degree murder and related charges in Kim's death.

Blannon, of the 1600 block of N. Calvert St., is one of two men accused of killing Kim. Reginald Venable Jr., 47, of the 800 block of E. 33rd St. in Baltimore is also charged with first-degree murder and related counts. He is scheduled for trial Feb. 15.

Kim and his wife, Eun, owned and operated the Jessup Plaza Deli & Convenience, which sold sandwiches and sundries and offered check-cashing services in a strip mall in the 7800 block of Washington Blvd.

The Ellicott City couple's son, Sean Kim, testified that the store often had large amounts of money on hand, sometimes as much as $400,000, to cash customers' checks. He said his 53-year-old father went to a bank three to four times a week to get the cash.

As prosecutor Michael Rexroad showed Eun Kim the bags that she said her husband used to carry the cash - one made of white canvas with burgundy straps, the other made of tan leather - she started crying so hard that Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ordered a recess. Kim left and sobbed in the hallway, her wails audible in the courtroom.

In opening statements, prosecutor Lynn Marshall said Kim, who had a permit to carry a gun, had returned to his store about 11 a.m. Oct. 8, 2003, when two men robbed him of $125,000 and one shot him in the head.

After the shooting, police followed witness descriptions of a sedan and pursued two suspects across Howard and Baltimore counties before the chase ended in West Baltimore.

Baltimore County police officer Jessica Hummel testified that she attempted to pull over the car as it sped into the city, but the driver would not comply.

The chase came to an end on South Athol Avenue, when the car crashed into a stone sign at the entrance to a nursing home, and Hummel said she rammed her car into the rear of the suspects' vehicle.

Blannon was arrested. The passenger, Venable, pointed a gun at police and was shot, Marshall said.

In the car, police found cash and a handgun, which matched a bullet recovered from Kim's brain, Marshall said. Investigators also found DNA evidence and gunshot residue on gloves Blannon was wearing and a jacket in the car, she said.

Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere, in her opening statement, urged the jury to be skeptical of the witnesses, who she said initially did not describe Blannon, a man with dark dreadlocks that nearly reach his waist.

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