The parents and sister of Stephanie Roper listened intently from the front row of a stuffy basement courtroom here today, holding hands and fighting tears, as witnesses described the kidnap, rape and murder of the 22-year-old Frostburg State honor student during a spring weekend home in Prince George's County.
"There's not going to be any justice," Roberta Roper sobbed after a 2 1/2 hour preliminary hearing into the death of her daughter. "All we're going to have is our love."
District Court Judge William O.E. Sterling declared that enough evidence had been presented to suggest strongly that the accused had committed the crime. He ordered the suspects, Jerry Lee Beatty, a 17-year-old high school dropout, and Jack Ronald Jones, 25, held without bond, pending trial in circuit court here.
They are charged with the April 3 abduction and slaying of Roper, a college senior whom they chanced upon after her car ran off the road in the rural Brandywine area of southern Prince George's County. Her mutilated body was found about a week later. An autopsy revealed that she had been beaten, shot in the head and set afire.
The defendants sat impassively during the incriminating testimony. They both wore dungarees and Beatty wore a T-shirt that revealed heavily tattooed arms, including one tattoo depicting an octopus enfolding a nude female figure.
The first witness, Stephen Ralph Anonsen, Jones' brother-in-law, recounted statements he said Beatty told him the night after the slaying.
"He called me into the back bedroom," said Anonsen, 18, who along with Beatty was living with Jones and his wife and their 6-year-old son on Queentree Road here in St. Mary's County. "He told me that my brother-in-law had done a very bad crime the other night."
According to Anonsen, Beatty admitted willingly participating in the rape, but said he then wanted to release Roper.
Anonsen testified that when Beatty first recounted the crime, "I didn't believe Jerry. I thought he was trying to play a joke on me." After watching television reports of the crime, Anonsen changed his mind. Some days later, after consulting his pastor on Easter Sunday, Anonsen went to police.
State police Cpl. Tom Bowers testified that marijuana and PCP were recovered from Jones' home, along with a box of .22 caliber bullets that matched one that killed Roper.
Bowers said both defendants gave statements to police after their arrests on April 12 that substantially corroborated Anonsen's account. This is how Bowers pieced together the story, based on statements from the defendants:
After Roper apparently fell asleep and wrecked her car en route to her home in Croom, Beatty and Jones, who had been drinking beer and playing pool in a Mechanicsburg tavern, offered to take her back to Clinton, where she had just dropped off a girlfriend at 3:15 a.m., after a night in Georgetown.
Instead, they parked on a deserted road in Accokeek, also in Prince George's County, and raped her. They next drove to an abandoned house in the woods of St. Mary's County, about a quarter mile from Jones' home in Oakville, and raped her again. They had been using fictitious names to that point, but then Beatty called Jones by his nickname "Bump."
"You know what we gotta do now," Jones said, Bowers told the court. "If she gets away, she'll identify us, and I don't want to go . . ."
"She was begging them not to hurt her, saying she wouldn't report it to the police and could obtain money for ransom," Bowers said. Roper cried over and over, "Lisa, please help me," referring to a friend, and also "screamed for God to help her."
Jones hit her over the head with a logging chain, intending only to "knock her out." Beatty said that when Roper ran into the woods, Jones overtook her and shot her in the right temple with a rifle, Bowers told the court. Jones denied shooting her.
Jones left her with Beatty and went to his car and siphoned gasoline from it. When he returned, he doused her with gasoline and set her body afire. The defendants dumped her body in a nearby swamp.