Testimony ends for last defendant in killing of teen Woodlawn girl

Richards admits to being at crime scene in interview

July 30, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Jason T. Richards spent the first two hours of his interview with a Baltimore County police detective insisting he knew nothing about the death of a 15-year-old Woodlawn girl whose body was found burning in a Pikesville park last July - and had nothing to gain by killing her.

When pressed, he admitted he was at the scene of the crime and had seen two of his friends holding Quartrina Johnson's feet and choking the girl, but he insisted he didn't realize she was in any real danger and that he had nothing to do with her death.

Richards' taped statement to police, played on the third and final day of testimony yesterday in his murder trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court, came a day after jurors heard the taped statement of a second defendant, Eric Thomas "Ock" Watkins, who said Richards had orchestrated a plan to kill Quartrina and her then-13-year-old foster sister to keep them from testifying in a statutory rape case.

The younger girl, whose alleged relationship with Richards sparked the rape charge, was not harmed because of a glitch in the plan, Watkins told detectives.

Richards, 25, who is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and second-degree rape, is the last of four defendants to face trial for Quartrina's death. Watkins, 19, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in May, and Ogden E. "G-Wizz" Coleman, 21, was convicted by a jury of the same charge last week. A fourth man, Michael Xavier Shelton, 19, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in March.

Shelton and Watkins had been expected to testify against Richards this week as part of plea deals that would limit their exposure to prison time - 10 years for Shelton, 60 for Watkins. Both are scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Shelton testified Wednesday that Richards told him to kill Quartrina, later asked if she was "dead yet" and handed him a board when he learned she was still alive.

But Watkins balked when brought to court the same day, claiming not to remember the events surrounding Quartrina's death despite detailing the crime at Coleman's trial and during an earlier motions hearing. Judge Patrick Cavanaugh allowed prosecutors to play Watkins taped police interview for jurors instead.

Yesterday, after asking his lawyer what the maximum penalty for perjury was, he said he had changed his mind and would testify - for the defense, Watkins' lawyer, Alvin Alston, said in court yesterday.

Cavanaugh said in court that he believed allowing the 19-year-old to testify "would be suborning perjury," and Richards and his lawyer, Mark Van Bavel, later decided to rest their case without calling a single witness.

Closing arguments are scheduled Monday.

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