Carl Dorr threatened to abduct his young daughter Michele just months before she vanished from his Silver Spring back yard in 1986, but they were merely angry remarks made during a bitter divorce, according to testimony yesterday from his ex-wife.
Dorothy Appleby was called to the witness stand by attorneys for Hadden Clark, who is charged with murdering her 6-year-old daughter.
Appleby testified that she had indeed written in divorce papers filed three months before Michele disappeared that her then-husband had threatened to abduct Michele from her bus stop or babysitter.
"I did not take those threats regarding Michele to heart," Appleby said in a soft voice. "Because I knew he loved her, and I knew he'd never hurt her."
As Appleby stared straight ahead from the witness stand, Clark gazed down at the defense table, sometimes closing his eyes, and at one point stared into the audience, where Carl Dorr sat in the second row.
Appleby was one of more than seven witnesses called by the defense in an effort to provide an alibi for Clark and poke holes in the prosecution's case. The defense has suggested that Carl Dorr had both motive and opportunity to make his daughter disappear and that police, desperate to solve the case, picked on Clark as a scapegoat.
The prosecutors, building a case almost entirely of circumstantial evidence, have contended that Michele wandered two doors away from her father's house in search of a playmate, Clark's niece. They say she encountered Clark in his brother's home, and that he killed her in his niece's bedroom. Her body has not been found.
Peter Stogbuchner, Clark's former boss at Chevy Chase Country Club, testified that Clark's timecard showed he reported to his job as a cook in the country club's kitchen at 2:46 p.m. on the day Michele disappeared.
Carl Dorr testified earlier that he last saw Michele playing in the back yard shortly after lunch, though he was uncertain of the exact time.
Prosecutors questioned whether one of Clark's friends could have punched in his timecard for him.
Jurors also heard testimony from a forensic scientist at a North Carolina laboratory where Montgomery County police sent samples of blood removed from the bedroom floor of Clark's niece.
Megan Clement testified that highly sensitive DNA tests on seven of the blood samples showed that none of the DNA from those samples matched DNA in blood drawn from either Clark or Appleby, whose DNA would match Michele's. Prosecutors argued that the DNA tests were so sensitive that any DNA that was detected could have come from a sneeze, skin cells or other human cells that gathered on the floor over the years.
Jurors also heard from a Silver Spring woman who said she saw a girl matching Michele's description about 2:45 p.m. on the day she vanished walking alone along Flower Avenue, four blocks from her father's home.
Clark, 47, was charged with Michele's murder in September 1998, five years after he pleaded guilty to killing Laura Houghteling, 23, of Bethesda. He is serving a 30-year sentence for Houghteling's slaying. Jurors have been told only that he is in prison.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael D. Mason told jurors that they likely will get the case tomorrow afternoon.
CAPTION: Michele Dorr disappeared in 1986 from her father's Silver Spring yard.
CAPTION: Hadden Clark allegedly killed Michele in his niece's room.