A day after murder charges against him were dropped, former college football star Derrick Fenner displayed no rancor yesterday toward the police officers who handled the case or the university that he said was less than supportive during his crisis.
"I don't feel bitter," Fenner said in the first substantive public statements since he was charged in June. "That would be the easy way out. I think it happend for a reason. I just want to put this in the past and get on with my life."
Fenner, a former standout running back at the University of North Carolina, spent six weeks locked in the Prince George's County Correctional Center after he was charged.
Prince George's prosecutors dropped the murder, attempted murder and weapons charges against Fenner on Monday, saying there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the case. Prosecutors reached that decision after new information was developed in the investigation by county police that contradicted earlier evidence developed by Hyattsville officers.
Five other men, including some who grew up with Fenner in the Oxon Hill area, remain charged in the slaying of Marcellus Leach, 19, who died May 23 of a gunshot wound to the head during what police said was a shooting rampage over drug distribution territory at the Kirkwood Apartments in Hyattsville.
Two of the five codefendants also have been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of a potential prosecution witness and with the attempted murder of a third codefendant, allegedly to thwart his cooperation with prosecutors.
Fenner, 20, said he thought often during his six weeks in the county jail about his choice of friends and whether he had made the right decision to continue longtime relationships with people whose lives apparently had headed in different directions from his.
"It's kind of hard sometimes to decide who are your friends, and who is good or bad," Fenner said. "You've got to evaluate your friends. But no one really says someone is bad until they get into trouble."
As his lawyers had done on Monday, Fenner denied statements by Hyattsville police that he had given detectives information that led authorities to other suspects in the case. And Fenner added that he had not made a deal with prosecutors to testify against any of them in ex-change for the dismissal of charges against him.
"It is extremely unfortunate that some charging documents and other police statements led many to believe that I pointed the finger at certain individuals," Fenner said. "This has been an obvious cause of concern for me and my family.
"I hope that his will be worked out, and no harm will come to my family."
Fenner still faces misdemeanor charges of possessing cocaine and transporting a handgun from a separate incident last April, when a county officer stopped the car Fenner was driving and found 25 vials containing traces of cocaine in his jacket and a .38-caliber handgun under the driver's seat.
Fenner has pleaded not guilty to those charges, and a trial is scheduled for Jan. 25.