If Bobby Pringle did murder his disabled mother -- if he did, as the prosecution alleges, stab her at least 70 times in the bedroom of her small Capitol Heights apartment one night last summer -- then Pringle says he cannot remember any of it.
Yesterday, though, testifying in his trial on a charge of first-degree murder in Prince George's County, the 30-year-old former soldier did recall this much about the evening of Aug. 21, 1989:
"I was high," Pringle told the Circuit Court jury in a voice choked by emotion. "I was very, very high."
Vodka. Brandy. Rum. Beer. Crack cocaine. PCP. From late afternoon until late that night, Pringle said, "I was mixing everything quite a bit."
The prosecution alleges that Pringle, who sometimes lived with his mother, Dorothy Mae Pringle, returned to her apartment in the Walker Mill Gardens complex before midnight and killed her. It was her 57th birthday.
Prosecutor Andrew Murray contends that Pringle was coherent enough to know what he was doing, making the slaying a first-degree murder. But Pringle, who has pleaded not guilty, said all he remembers is waking the next morning and finding his mother's body.
Family members described Dorothy Pringle as a devout Baptist who raised seven children, four girls and three boys. Bobby, the youngest son, graduated from Central High School in Seat Pleasant in the late 1970s, then served briefly in the Army. He returned to Prince George's in 1979, began using drugs, and has since worked at a series of low-paying jobs while living at a variety of addresses, according to testimony.
Pringle testified that last August, he was earning about $180 a week at a fast-food chicken restaurant. Hours before the killing, he said, he cashed his paycheck and began drinking heavily at an acquaintance's home.
On his way back to his mother's apartment complex, he said, he stopped at a nearby "drug strip" to purchase crack cocaine and PCP-laced marijuana. He said he mixed the crack with the powerful psychedelic drug known on the street as "love boat" and smoked it all at once.
"And I remember smoking again, a second one, and I was still holding on to the drink, which was a bag with a couple of beers in it and a bottle of brandy," Pringle testified.
Later, he said, he bought and smoked more PCP before making his way to his mother's first-floor apartment.
"After you knocked on the door, what's the next thing you remember?" asked his attorney, Maureen Lamasney.
"I remember waking up the next morning," Pringle replied. "I was laying on the living-room floor with a pair of shorts and a pair of socks . . . . First, I walked into the bedroom. I saw my mother. I started hollering and screaming. I just got disturbed. I didn't know what to do."
He said he ran from the apartment and eventually wound up back at his acquaintance's house, where he began drinking again, he said.
"I was trying to remember and also trying to forget at the same time," he said. "And I was thinking maybe what I saw wasn't true. Because a lot of times when I'm high, I see things that aren't there." He said he went back to his mother's apartment later in the morning.
Family members, who had grown worried because they had been unable to reach Dorothy Pringle by telephone, were already at the apartment, trying to get in. A maintenance man opened the door, and Bobby Pringle walked straight to the bedroom.
"And I saw that what I saw that morning was true," he said. "I hollered and screamed that's 'she's dead, she'd dead.' I just ran past people. Someone tried to grab me, but I just ran outside."
Still drunk, Pringle said, he ran to a field across the street. "I just sat there and cried," he said. "I just cried and cried."