The last time that David Fuller saw his wife Catherine alive she had rings on all the fingers of her left hand, including a new set of marriage bands, and $50 that she "put in her little brown purse . . . and stuffed in her bosom," Fuller testified yesterday.
Several hours later, Fuller testified, he became concerned that his wife had not come home.
"Did your wife come home that night?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry S. Goren asked Fuller.
"No," Fuller responded.
The testimony of David Fuller, one of three family members to testify yesterday at the D.C. Superior Court murder trial of 10 young defendants, laid the groundwork for a key prosecution contention that Catherine Fuller had been robbed, as well as murdered.
Earlier in the day, Detective Patrick McGinnis, who has investigated Fuller's slaying since the day she died in October 1984, said Fuller was not wearing any jewelry when he arrived at the abandoned garage where her battered body was found.
The 10 young people, believed to be the largest number of defendants in a single murder trial in the District, are charged with first-degree murder, kidnaping and armed robbery.
To convict any of the 10 of first-degree murder, the government must prove that Fuller was killed during a felony, in this case robbery or kidnaping.
Prosecutors charge that the 48-year-old Fuller, a slight mother of six, was beaten to death and a foot-long pole rammed into her rectum because she fought back when the group of young people, who had staked out the Northeast neighborhood as their own territory, tried to rob her of a coin purse.
Fuller's slaying, near a busy hub of the blighted H Street NE corridor, has been called one of the most brutal murders in the District's history. In addition to the 10 on trial, two persons have pleaded guilty in the case and police allege that about two dozen other young people witnessed the beating in the alley behind the 800 block of Ninth Street NE.
David Fuller's testimony provided the emotional climax of yesterday's proceedings as the jurors and a packed audience listened intently to the 52-year-old disabled government worker, who walked slowly to the witness stand with a cane and then spoke softly about his wife. Fuller said he knew that various items found in the the garage -- a polka-dot umbrella, a pair of boots, a coin purse -- were his wife's because, "I bought them for her."
At one point, he spread his fingers and pointed to them to show on which of her fingers his wife had been wearing the rings he bought: a gold wedding band, a new set of marriage rings, a multistoned "mother's ring," a birthstone.
Fuller said he knew that his wife had $50 in her coin purse when she left their row house on Oct. 1, 1984, because he gave it to her.
"When she came upstairs to bring me my dinner, she said she didn't have any money," said Fuller. "I gave her $50 to buy medicine for her ankles."
Later in the day, prosecution witness William Freeman, a street vendor who discovered Fuller's body and had been working just around the corner from the alley where she was killed, appeared to give credibilty to defense claims when he said he did not see any large groups of people following anyone that day. But under cross-examination by another defense lawyer, Freeman admitted that trees blocked most of his view of the area.
In other testimony, Catherine Fuller's sister, Barbara Wade, testified that she discovered her sister's polka-dot umbrella in the alley the day after Fuller's death.
"All the spokes were bent up, as if she was trying to fight them," said Wade.
Fuller's son, David III, a high school senior and a friend of some of the defendants, also testified briefly.