Montgomery County teen pleads guilty in slaying

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Montgomery County teenager pleaded guilty Monday to killing a 57-year-old man by hitting him in the head with a shovel, setting the stage for the trial of the teenager's girlfriend, who prosecutors say helped lure the victim down a darkened path in Potomac last year.

Emily Geller, 18, is set to be tried on murder and robbery charges in May. She is jailed without bond in Montgomery.

In a hearing Monday, prosecutors ticked off clues and evidence that led detectives to charge Geller and Artie Ellis, 16, in the killing of Ali Zare, an Iranian immigrant who lived in Gaithersburg and had worked as a car salesman. Among the clues, according to prosecutors and police:

-- Geller knew the victim. Someone called the victim's cellphone from Geller's home at 11:44 p.m., about eight hours before his body was found.

-- A short time after the body was discovered, Geller's fingerprints were found inside the victim's car.

-- The shovel was later found at Geller's home.

-- The victim's cellphone was later found inside Ellis's bedroom.

-- In statements to detectives, Ellis said he hit the victim with a shovel, but did not intend to kill him.

-- In statements that both teens made to detectives, they said they took the victim's credit cards and money as he lay on a bicycle path.

"He's extremely remorseful for his actions," Ellis's attorney, Rene Sandler, said yesterday.

Geller's attorney, Barbara Graham, recently got the case after a change in lawyers. She declined to comment Monday. Geller has never given her side of things in court, and the statements above mostly come from police, prosecutors and her co-defendant, who might be asked to testify against her.

Ellis pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as part of an agreement with prosecutors. He will receive no more than 25 years behind bars as part of a suspended life sentence that essentially hangs prison time over his head until he dies if he gets into trouble again. Because the sentence is technically a form of life in prison, the governor would have to sign off on parole, according to attorneys in the case.

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