Teen Guilty of Murder in Slaying Over Cellphone

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007

Terrance Anthony Powell was killed in a confrontation over a cellphone with someone he didn't know in a neighborhood he knew only too well.

Andrew Douglas "Zell" Tuell settled the dispute in February with five shots -- killing Powell at the same Annapolis housing complex where Powell's brother was slain in 2001 -- then picked up the cellphone and returned it to its "shocked" owner. At a trial this week, prosecutors said the phone that Powell, 23, was using belonged to one of Tuell's friends and had been found or borrowed by Powell.

Tuell, 19, was found guilty of first-degree murder yesterday by a jury in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. He could be sentenced to life in prison.

The verdict was hailed by the family of the victim, a Brooklyn Park man who was newly engaged and planning to move with his mother into a new house built by the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity.

"The only time we'll get to see him is when we put flowers on his grave," said Sheila Fleming, an aunt of the victim.

Yesterday, as the jury was about to be led into the courtroom to announce its verdict, Tuell rose unprompted and told the judge that he wanted to put on the record that he had tried to obtain another defense attorney, one who he said would "better benefit me."

During the trial, defense attorney Robert Henry Waldman did not concede that Tuell fired the five shots that killed Powell. Waldman also argued that even if the jurors believed he did, there was no evidence that the shooting was premeditated, a necessary element to support a verdict of first-degree murder. The shooting, he said, "occurred almost without stop in a matter of seconds."

He also noted that Tuell was 18 at the time of the shooting. Of people that age, he said, "their minds are not even formed."

The prosecution argued that Tuell had adequate time to consider his actions. Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said that the victim was still alive after the first of the shots was fired. Tuell then shot Powell in the head because he feared retribution from those who knew the victim, she said.

"The victim was down," Leitess said. "He shot him. That was premeditation."

The gun was never recovered. Tuell was arrested in March in Utah after he was turned in by an uncle.

Leitess said it was unclear how the phone came into Powell's possession. When Tuell saw him with it, Leitess said, Tuell "let him know whose phone it was" and then launched into the argument that ended in gunfire.

According to Powell's family, Powell's brother was gunned down in the same neighborhood during a dispute in September 2001. Prosecutors won a conviction in that case, too, family members said.

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