Woman Acquitted in Ex-Boyfriend's Death

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 1, 2007

A former Howard University medical student who was convicted in the 2005 slaying of a fellow student but won a new trial on appeal was found not guilty yesterday by a jury in Prince George's County.

In the retrial, jurors deliberated for about four hours over two days before acquitting Abere Karibi-Ikiriko, 30, of second-degree murder. She had been accused of killing her former boyfriend, Okechukwu "Will" Ohiri, 26.

The verdict prompted an emotional outburst from Ohiri's mother, according to people who were in the courtroom. The woman wailed in anguish, her cries so loud that attorneys and Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. had to struggle to hear jurors as they were polled on their votes. Sothoron eventually asked the woman to go out in the hall, where she continued to weep.

Efforts to locate Ohiri's relatives later yesterday were unsuccessful.

Karibi-Ikiriko, a former star student who tried to kill herself inside the Prince George's Detention Center in March, was not on hand to hear the verdict. She suffered an emotional breakdown earlier yesterday in the courthouse cafeteria, said her mother, Stella Ikiriko.

Paramedics were summoned, and Karibi-Ikiriko was taken to the emergency room at the Southern Maryland Hospital Center, Ikiriko said. Ikiriko attributed the breakdown to the stress of the retrial. Of the verdict, Ikiriko said, "The verdict was a fair judgment."

Ikiriko and other relatives said their joy yesterday was tempered by sorrow over Ohiri's death and the anguish felt by his family. Ikiriko and other relatives said they were fond of Ohiri and harbored no ill will toward his family.

Prosecutors alleged that Karibi-Ikiriko shot Ohiri intentionally.

Karibi-Ikiriko's attorneys in the retrial, Assistant Public Defender Janet Hart and Deputy Public Defender Gary Ward, argued that the shooting was an accident that occurred as Karibi-Ikiriko and Ohiri grappled over a gun.

The shooting occurred about 7 p.m. Jan. 15, 2005, in the basement of Karibi-Ikiriko's home in Capitol Heights. The couple had split, but Ohiri was renting the basement.

At the first trial, in August 2005, and again at the second trial, Karibi-Ikiriko testified that she was doing laundry in the basement in preparation for a trip to Austria to attend a Nobel Prize conference. Ohiri arrived, and when she rebuffed his talk of reuniting, he went upstairs and returned with a handgun, she said.

She testified that Ohiri directed her to a couch and pulled up the long nightgown she was wearing. When he put the gun on a cushion, she picked it up, she testified. Ohiri grabbed it, and the weapon went off, Karibi-Ikiriko said.

Karibi-Ikiriko was convicted of second-degree murder in 2005 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Last November, a three-judge panel of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that the trial judge, Sothoron, should have allowed the defense to use as evidence seven handwritten letters and an e-mail from Ohiri to Karibi-Ikiriko.

The defense used the letters in the second trial to suggest that Ohiri was obsessed with Karibi-Ikiriko and tried to force himself on her at gunpoint.

Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, said yesterday that prosecutors have no choice but to accept the verdict.

"This is tragic across the board," he said. "One promising life's gone; one promising life's wasted."

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