On the first day of the capital murder trial of a Baltimore man, the key witness yesterday stopped short of positively identifying the man accused of killing her boyfriend and shooting her in a Dundalk apartment almost two years ago.
Several times, prosecutors asked Jennifer Parvizimotlagh whether Travis Davon Terry, the man facing her in the courtroom, was the assailant. But Parvizimotlagh, who had given police detailed descriptions of the shooter and the incident in the days following the killing, said only that the defendant had similar hair.
She stared at 24-year-old Terry for about 30 seconds before saying, "I am not 100 percent sure," after which the defendant lowered his head and flashed a grin.
"We think her inability to identify him is huge," defense attorney Kay A. Beehler said in an interview after yesterday's testimony.
Terry, who lost a leg in a previous shooting and wears a prosthesis, is known as "Six" and has several number sixes tattooed on his knuckles. He is accused in the shooting death of longtime friend Edwin Leon Potillo III after a night of partying in Parvizimotlagh's apartment in June 2005.
Prosecutors are seeking a first-degree murder conviction, arguing that the killing was premeditated and precipitated by an argument about Terry's use of Potillo's cell phone. Their case is based in part on comments Parvizimotlagh made to police previously that Terry and Potillo quarreled earlier on the night of the killing. But yesterday Parvizimotlagh testified that there was no such dispute.
In opening statements, prosecutors said they will present DNA evidence, fingerprints and clothing the defendant left at the scene, including a leather jacket with bullets in the pocket similar to those taken from the victims.
Though the crime was committed in Baltimore County, the case is being heard in Bel Air under a provision that gives defendants in a capital case an automatic right of removal to another jurisdiction. Prosecutors and defense attorneys from Baltimore County are trying the case, which is being overseen by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox.
Prosecutors told the jury that Terry "inexplicably without provocation" took a handgun to the head of Potillo, who was dozing on the living room sofa in the predawn hours of June 4. Terry then allegedly tried to rob Potillo and Parvizimotlagh, who went into the bedroom to find her purse. Terry ordered her to lie on the bed facedown. Fearing for her life, she charged at Terry and he shot her in the stomach, prosecutors said.
"He was right in front of my face with a gun," Parvizimotlagh told the court.
In light of such statements, Beehler expressed surprise that the victim could not identify the assailant. The shootings occurred after a night of drinking, drug use and partying, Beehler said. Terry, Parvizimotlagh and Potillo smoked marijuana, drank alcohol and took prescription pain medication and Ecstasy, Beehler said.
Potillo and Parvizimotlagh had been dating for four months, but she first met Terry on the night of the shooting. She did not feel threatened by him, she said.
"I didn't feel anything weird," she said. "There was nothing to indicate I should get out of the situation."
A neighbor in a nearby building also testified yesterday. He said he heard two pops and a woman screaming for help and immediately ran to her aid. He found her bleeding in a stairwell in the hallway outside the apartment and did not see anyone fleeing Parvizimotlagh's building, he said.