Closing arguments were expected today in the trial of a Baltimore couple charged with robbing and killing Valerie Brown, 30, a Philadelphia book saleswoman outside the victim's Westview motel room.
Yesterday, taking the witness stand in her own defense, Donna Denson, 26, admitted that she used the victim's credit card to buy gasoline and cigarettes, but she said she didn't learn the woman had been killed until several days after the incident last Sept. 17.
Asked how she thought her boyfriend, Rowland K. Hudson, 34, had obtained the victim's Visa card, Denson replied, "He might have snatched her pocketbook or something. I don't know."
Denson was the only witness for her defense. Hudson's attorney, Phillip Sutley, rested his defense without calling Hudson or any other witnesses to the stand.
Judge John Grason Turnbull is presiding over the jury trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court.
Denson testified that she didn't see Brown killed, but that later Hudson admitted to the slaying and coached her on what to say to police.
Dressed in a gray business suit with a pink blouse, Denson admitted that she lied to police before and after her arrest, but said she did so only because she was afraid of Hudson.
Hudson, she said, had beaten her in the past and threatened to kill her once, when she attempted to break off the four-year relationship. "He pulled a sawed-off shotgun and he put it against my head and he told me, '. . . If you leave me, I'll kill you.' "
The night of the slaying, Denson said, she and Hudson spent most of their time driving around Baltimore attempting to "hack," or give people cab rides for money.
Eventually, Denson said, Hudson drove them out on U.S. 40 before pulling the car into the parking lot of the Quality Inn Motel in the 5800 block of Baltimore National Pike.
Right before they pulled into the lot, a car behind them flashed its high beam headlights, because Hudson was "creeping along," Denson said. That car also pulled into the lot.
Hudson then drove to the side of one of the motel's three main buildings -- which one, Denson said she couldn't remember.
Then, she testified, Hudson got out of the car and walked away, returning in "about five or 10 minutes."
"He told me to drive," she said. "He kept asking me to look back and to see if anyone was following us."
Did he tell you what happened? asked her attorney, Thomas Saunders, the Baltimore County public defender.
"He made a statement like, 'I had to bust her.' I'm not sure," Denson replied.
After that, Denson said they drove to her brother's house, did some drugs, left to buy more drugs, then used Brown's Visa card to buy gas and a carton of Newport cigarettes.
Later, she said, they took the car they were driving to a friend's house and borrowed a van, because one of the car's headlights was out.
Why did you do that? she was asked.
"So we could go and use the credit cards," she said. "We used it [the credit card] all night at different gas stations."
That weekend, she said, Hudson told her what happened and began coaching her on what to tell the police.
During cross-examination, Steve Bailey, the state's attorney prosecuting the case, asked her about the statement Hudson made about having to "bust her."
"I really wasn't paying attention to it," Denson said.
"But you know what 'bust' means?" countered Bailey. "He had to shoot her. Isn't that what bust means?"
"It could," she replied.