The key question of whether former Alexandria businessman Frederick Ramsay stood to profit from the death of his partner, William B. Young, was explored from different angles yesterday at Ramsay's murder trial.
A bank officer who is a key government witness testified that on the day Young was shot to death, Ramsay's firm, Suburban Electric Co., had a $43,000 loan come due.
Ramsay, 41, former president of the firm, is accused of paying three men to kill Young so he could cash in a $150,000 employe life insurance policy -- with a double indemnity clause for accidental or sudden death -- and cover his considerable debts.
The defense, which opened its case yesterday after the last of the prosecution's witnesses finished, produced a witness who told the Alexandria Circuit Court jury that Suburban Electric stood to lose much more financially if Young died than if the company collected on insurance benefits.
Thomas Woehrle, a Northern Virginia lawyer, testified that Young was more educated and sophisticated in electronics than Ramsay, and had "a finesse for acquiring business."
Woehrle, who represented Ramsay's firm in a civil suit brought in 1983 by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance in its unsuccessful attempt to block payment of the insurance policy on Young to Ramsay, said Young's death was "a loss, not a gain" for the now-defunct Suburban Electric.
The defense will continue its case today in the increasingly crowded Circuit Courtroom No. 2.
The government rested its case after testimony from several witnesses yesterday, including Laura Lawlor, a vice president of United Virginia Bank. She told the jury that on Nov. 27, 1981, the day Young was shot to death in his office, a $43,000 loan the bank made to Suburban Electric was due.
In addition, three of Young's relatives testified that Ramsay told them that Suburban Electric had no active life insurance on Young.
Ramsay "said there was no policy whatsoever," Richard H. Young, the slain man's brother, testified, adding that the day after his brother was killed Ramsay said Suburban Electric could collect no insurance on him.
Frank B. Christopher, the Massachusetts Mutual insurance agent who wrote the policy on Young's life, had testified earlier yesterday that he was contacted by Ramsay's brother within 24 hours of Young's death in connection with the life insurance policy.
Judge Donald M. Haddock rejected a prosecution motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the government had not produced a credible case. Defense attorney Louis Koutoulakos argued for dismissal because much of the testimony that links Ramsay to Young's death comes from convicted felons.
The only two witnesses who testified that Ramsay spoke to them about Young's death were Ralph Threatt, 44, who has a past robbery conviction and was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Young's slaying before being granted immunity from prosecution, and Thomas Ebron, 26, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Threatt testified that Ramsay told him to hire Ebron and another man, Charles Joseph, 36, to kill Young. Joseph also pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case.
"Nobody knows what a jury might do," Koutoulakos said, "but it would be tragic to let it guess whether these convicted felons are telling the truth."
The jury is expected to begin deliberations today or tomorrow.