Trial opens in 2013 murder in rural Arundel woods

In his final moments, Darren Bell made a call to 911. "Trace this call, please," he said. "I think I'm about to be killed."

Moments later, a pop and screams can be heard on the 911 recording. "They shot me!" he told the operator.

Police say that not long after, they found Bell dying of a gunshot wound and more than 20 knife wounds in a snow-covered patch of woods in the Marley Neck area of Glen Burnie in January 2013. He died at the scene. Police arrested three people they found nearby: Erica Banks, her father Eric Banks and an associate, Tremain Calhoun Jr.

Eric Banks of Baltimore County is on trial for murder in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in connection with Bell's death.

Anne Arundel County Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Poma played the 911 tapes as she opened Banks' trial on Thursday morning. Bell's family wiped away tears and hung their heads as they heard the tape played over courtroom speakers.

In her opening statement, Poma alleged that Bell had engaged in a drug deal that left him in debt $200 to a friend of Erica Banks. Poma said that during a night out on the town, Bell, Erica Banks and Calhoun wound up at the wooded area.

Bell called 911 at 3:13 a.m., whispering over and over, "Trace this call." At 4:05 a.m., he made his final call to 911, Poma said.

Police officers who responded to the scene testified that they found Erica Banks and Calhoun in an SUV parked on the side of the road. Eric Banks soon emerged from the woods with bloody hands, police testified.

Elizabeth Palan, one of the public defenders representing Eric Banks, said Eric Banks didn't go to the woods to help kill Bell. Rather, he went to try and stop his daughter from making a decision she'd regret.

"Eric Banks is collateral damage in this case," Palan said.

While Eric Banks "made a series of bad decisions" that night, "murdering Darren Bell was not one of them," Palan said.

Calhoun already has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and will be a witness in the trials of both Eric Banks and Erica Banks.

Eric Banks' trial is expected to last into next week. Erica Banks' trial is scheduled for April.

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