A District man accused of slaying an Alexandria woman four years ago appeared in Washington with her car hours after she was last seen alive, a prosecutor told jurors in Charles County Circuit Court yesterday.
A defense lawyer attacked that account, saying it relies upon a witness who cannot be relied upon to tell the truth.
The attorneys' statements came as Garrison Thomas went on trial in the death of Beverly R. Mitchell, whose bludgeoned and strangled body was found in a Charles County field in 1995.
Thomas, 44, of Southeast Washington, is accused of first-degree murder and other crimes in the death of Mitchell, 26, a customer service representative for a mutual fund agency in Bethesda.
She was last seen alive March 22, 1995, when she left the Southeast Washington home of her aunt and uncle. She had gone there to drop off some cash after withdrawing $60 from an automated teller machine on South Capitol Street, witnesses testified yesterday.
A day later and some 20 miles away, a Waldorf man driving his truck off-road found her body. It lay face down at the end of a gravel road by a blood-soaked log and a bloodstained rock in Lot No. 7 of acreage cleared for a housing subdivision near La Plata.
Between Mitchell's disappearance and the discovery of her body in what is now the Locust Grove subdivision, Thomas appeared at the door of Novella Harris Lee in Southeast Washington, Assistant State's Attorney Matthew R. Stiglitz said yesterday.
Lee's testimony will link Thomas to the car and to the slaying, Stiglitz said.
Public defender Carl W. Buchheister said such testimony could, at most, indicate automobile theft. But, he told jurors, "This is not a man guilty of anything."
Buchheister said testimony would show Lee had frequently used crack cocaine. "Her reputation is lousy," Buchheister said. "She'll say anything to anybody at any time to stay out of trouble."
The trial, with Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Clark presiding, is expected to last through Friday.
Clark, in a pretrial hearing last week, declined to dismiss charges against Thomas, who was indicted in December. Buchheister had argued that prosecutors waited so long to bring charges that witnesses who might contradict their version of events have disappeared.
Stiglitz said the indictment resulted from time-consuming reexamination of evidence, including a brown fiber found on the front seat of Mitchell's Mitsubishi Eclipse.
FBI analysts determined the fiber came from a brown wig. Prosecution witnesses will say Thomas at times dressed as a woman and used a brown wig, Stiglitz said.
Buchheister said prosecutors could not link Thomas to the wig fiber or to any fingerprints or bloodstains found at the murder scene and on the car.
"Every blood and fiber test in the world was done," Buchheister said. "Not a single test came back to my client. Because he wasn't there."