Prosecutors may omit evidence in trial

Strand of hair could tie Elkton woman to man suspected in her killing

April 22, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

With Harford County prosecutors expected to wrap up their case tomorrow against a 35-year-old laborer accused of killing an Elkton woman, it appears that a key piece of evidence will not be introduced to jurors.

In motions hearings this month, prosecutors said they had recovered Lillian Abramowciz Phelps' blood from the underside of Charles Eugene Burns' Dodge Neon, as well as a strand of hair that had been caught near the wheel.

Though the strand appeared to be the same color as Phelps' bleached-blond hair, no DNA test was conducted to determine from whom the hair came. And while Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron upheld the state's option to introduce the hair as evidence, neither side has mentioned the strand through two days of testimony.

Prosecutors said at that hearing that the hair reinforced their theory that a bolt on Burns' car punctured Phelps' skull - a key component in a case that defense attorneys say lacks evidence linking the defendant to the crime.

Most of the testimony has centered on what Phelps was doing before she vanished and how her body was discovered and identified.

Burns, who was living with his grandparents in Bel Air at the time of his arrest, is charged with first-degree murder in Phelps' death. Her body was found June 14 near a cornfield, two weeks after she left an Aberdeen home she and a friend had been visiting.

Investigators found her blood - and the blood of another woman - under Burns' car after prostitutes came forward to allege that he attacked them.

He has been charged with sexual assault and attempted murder in those cases, and authorities have said he might be linked to three additional killings.

Discussion of charges in other cases is not admissible in the murder trial, and Burns' attorneys have said that there is no evidence that shows Burns was responsible for Phelps' death. Searches of his home and the inside of his vehicle produced no evidence, and there are no witnesses who saw Burns and Phelps. On Friday, an engineer for Sprint testified that Burns' mobile phone connected twice with an Aberdeen cell tower on the night Phelps was last seen, placing his phone within a two-mile radius of the tower.

Under cross-examination, the engineer said Burns' phone had connected with the same tower several times on at least 10 other days last May as well.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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