No motive in slashing

Police can't find link between victim, man charged in Catonsville liquor store killing

November 26, 2008|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun.com

Fingerprints left at a Catonsville liquor store where a woman was fatally stabbed Saturday afternoon led police to the nearby home of a 23-year-old man whose only prior criminal conviction was for burglarizing a house with some friends.

David Aaron Briggs was arrested late Monday night and charged with first-degree murder in an attack that appears to have been completely random.

"Right now, we have no motive," Cpl. Mike Hill, a Baltimore County police spokesman, told reporters yesterday. "Our information does suggest that they did not know each other at all."

Aysha D. Ring, 24, was stabbed in the neck and wrist just before 4 p.m. on Saturday while standing in line at Charing Cross Liquors on Baltimore National Pike. Born into a military family, the Hawaii native was studying business at Anne Arundel Community College and working full-time at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore while preparing for a career in the U.S. Navy.

"This is a tragic case that has taken the life of a young woman, an innocent victim in our community," Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said. "The members of our community are rightfully alarmed and concerned."

Police declined to discuss what led them to Briggs, other than to say it was a combination of "the latest in technology" and old-fashioned police work.

Court documents, however, reveal that latent fingerprints lifted from areas touched by the assailant in the liquor store led investigators to Briggs, who lives with his father less than a mile from the shop. Detectives then compared a photo of Briggs on file to surveillance footage.

"This comparison provided a match in approximate height, weight, stature, hair and facial features," homicide detective John Tollen wrote in charging documents.

Surveillance footage from cameras around the shopping center showed a newer model blue Ford F-150 leaving the parking lot within minutes of the stabbing. Through motor vehicle records, detectives learned that Briggs owns a 2008 Ford F-150 truck registered to an address in the 1100 block of Sedgewood Road, between Catonsville and Woodlawn and just barely within Baltimore County's border.

At about 11 o'clock Monday night, detectives searched that home, where they found clothes that matched what the suspect had been wearing when Ring was killed, according to court records.

Briggs, a newspaper carrier for The Washington Post, was arrested and questioned at police headquarters in Towson. He told detectives that he had never been to the liquor store, according to court records.

Reached last night, the defendant's father, Carlton Briggs, was distraught. "Obviously, he has some mental problems," he said of his son. "I just found out what happened. I'm heartbroken. I'm sad. I can't even think straight right now."

According to court papers filed by the lawyer who represented David Briggs last year in a burglary case, the young man has worked as a newspaper deliveryman for eight years and was taking classes in February at Prince George's County Community College.

Less than three months after Briggs was sentenced in November 2007 to 18 months of probation and 80 hours of community service for the first-degree burglary conviction, he had already completed his service hours, defense attorney Arthur M. Frank wrote at the time in a request for his client's criminal record to be wiped clean with a finding of probation before judgment. That request is still pending.

"He seemed like a good kid," the defense lawyer said yesterday. "He had no mental problems that I knew of. His father was a concerned parent and took a real interest in his son's well-being."

Briggs also received probation before judgment last year for marijuana possession.

Janice Wooten, who lives next door to the Briggs family, said she did not know the father and son well but described her interactions with them as pleasant.

"I hope he didn't do it," the neighbor said. "They seem like very nice people."

At the high school where Ring has worked since June of last year managing logistics for students in corporate internship programs, staff struggled yesterday to make sense of her death.

"We have a lot of young staff, and this strikes young people particularly hard," said the school's president, the Rev. John W. Swope. "It's important that [the investigation] didn't drag on."

Briggs is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on no bail. He will likely have a bail review hearing today in District Court in Towson.

Baltimore Sun reporter Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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