Attorneys for Reuben Jackson, accused of murdering Joanne Grossnickle, a 1984 college graduate from an old-line Frederick County family, rested their case in Prince George's County Circuit Court yesterday after attempting to show that the prosecution had never traced Grossnickle's murder directly to their client.
The public defender, James Kenkel, requested that Jackson, 40, of Southeast Washington, be acquitted of charges that he robbed, kidnaped and murdered Grossnickle, 22, saying that the prosecution had failed to show that Jackson had ever been in Prince George's County at the time of the murder, which is believed to have taken place last Sept. 3 or 4.
Prosecutors have tied Jackson to Grossnickle during the five-day trial by presenting evidence that Jackson drove Grossnickle's car during the period she was reported missing and that Jackson's neighbors saw him unload property from the car and take it into his home.
However, Howard Campbell, an investigator for the public defender's office, testified yesterday that in addition to some of Grossnickle's property that was found in the trunk of the 1984 Nissan that Jackson was driving when he was arrested, there were paintings in the trunk that did not belong her.
Campbell said his investigations determined that the paintings had been stolen from the St. Charles Hotel in Washington in June and July 1983.
Jackson was a "mobile yard sale," defense attorney Patrice Lewis said during opening arguments of the trial.
A forensic pathologist testified for the defense yesterday that Grossnickle, who lived in an apartment in Montgomery County, may have been killed and then dragged to the wooded area in Cottage City where police discovered her body Sept. 9.
Rueiger Eritenecker, deputy medical examiner for Baltimore County, also said that Grossnickle may have died from the severing of a main artery in her neck and not from multiple stab wounds to the body, as was indicated in testimony last week.
The wound Grossnickle received in the neck would have been "rapidly fatal" and produced a great deal of blood, he said.
There was not much blood at the site where she was found, according to testimony.
Looking at a number of color photographs, Eritenecker testified that several bluish-gray marks on Grossnickle's back indicate that she may have died while lying on her back, allowing blood to settle there.
He further testified that shallow scratches on the victim's back indicate that her body may have been dragged on the ground after she was killed.
When police found Grossnickle's body, it was lying face down and wrapped in a pink bedspread, according to testimony last week.
Joanne Grossnickle, whose father runs a grain and feed store in Frederick County, graduated from Towson State College and began work last June as a legislative associate and office manager in the Washington office of the Church of the Brethren. The trial has drawn numerous representatives from the close-knit Johnsville community in Frederick, and supporters of Jackson as well.
The jury will hear closing arguments in the case today.