Friend testifies in coach's death

Witness says defendant yelled profanities before pulling out a rifle in 2005 shooting

January 12, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN REPORTER

The two friends hung out at least twice a week.

Brian O'Neil Jones, a popular high school coach, and Alfred Winborne Jr., a mortgage consultant, bonded on the basketball court eight years before they were together for the last time one night in November 2005.

The two had just left a bar on a well-lighted street in Canton about 1:30 a.m. when a man approached them carrying a rifle with a scope.

Winborne, testifying this week in the Baltimore Circuit Court trial of the man charged with killing Jones, said the armed man yelled a profanity and then fired four shots as the two friends ran in opposite directions. Jones' body was found hours later, a killing that shook the waterfront community.

Jones was a Northrop Grumman software engineer and junior varsity basketball coach at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Southwest Baltimore. He got married in 1997 and was the father of three children, all younger than 7.

Alvin Augustus Williams, 26, of the 6000 block of Marquette Road in Rosedale, was charged with first-degree murder. Winborne identified him in court as the man holding the rifle that night. The trial could conclude today.

Police and prosecutors have characterized Jones, 33, as a hardworking man who did nothing to deserve his fate in a random attack.

A defense attorney said in her opening statements that Williams is a victim of shoddy police work. Jones' body was found more than five hours after a resident informed police of hearing gunshots.

Police searched for an hour but were unable to find Jones, who was later discovered close to dawn in a grassy lot near the Canton Harbor Nursing Center in the 1300 block of S. Ellwood Ave., about two blocks from the confrontation.

Prosecutors called a handful of law enforcement officers detailing a trail of blood ending where Jones was found.

A fingerprint expert also testified to having a match for Williams on a print left on the door of a white car that police confiscated. A rifle that police believe was used in the killing was on a seat in the car.

Prosecutors say Williams used the car of a female friend's sister to commit what they called a senseless murder.

Assistant State's Attorney Sam Yee said Jones "was just out with his friend having a good time" in his opening statements.

Two witnesses testified to having seen Williams holding a rifle at the time of the attack. They identified the defendant from a photo array days later.

But Williams' lawyer, Joan Fraser, questioned why detectives put Williams, who has dark skin, in a lineup with mostly lighter-skinned men. Fraser characterized her client as a working man with a family.

"Does it appear to you that Alvin Williams' picture is different than the others?" Fraser asked Detective Kerry Snead in court.

"I would say a few shades, yes," Snead said.

Fraser also attacked the credibility of the other witness, who had been involved in a murder case in another state. Witnesses also gave different accounts as to the type of white car that they saw that night, with one saying it was a cruiser and the other saying it as a sport-utility vehicle.

Jones and Winborne started the evening at Baja Beach Club in Power Plant Live. Winborne said he decided to leave his car in a garage near Baja, and the two carpooled to Coburn's Tavern and Grill in Canton, where they spent about two hours.

Winborne said he and Jones were headed back to the car, discussing where they were going to watch the football games over the weekend. They noticed a white car parked illegally and made eye contact with one of the passengers, who got out and walked to the front of the car, Winborne said.

After a few seconds, Winborne said the passenger cursed and pulled out the weapon. "Then I said something to [Jones]," Winborne recalled. "I don't even know what I said."

Winborne ran north on Ellwood Avenue toward the Canton square but was not sure whether Jones was behind him.

"I don't know which way he ran," Winborne said.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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