Customer tells court he was dozing in chair when barber was killed


On Dec. 20, 1990, a weary Robert Alston dozed off in a barber chair only to be awakened by gunfire. When Mr. Alston came to his senses, he discovered that the barber, James Remsburg, had been shot dead.

Mr. Alston, 54, testified yesterday in the trial of Renard Wheeler, 19, who has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted robbery with a deadly weapon. Mr. Remsburg was slain during a robbery at his barbershop in the 3000 block of Greenmount Avenue.

Mr. Alston, a heavy equipment operator for the city, told a Baltimore Circuit Court jury that he went to the crowded barbershop after work and spent hours waiting for his haircut. He recalled the shooting this way:

"I heard a bang, bang. When I turned around, Jim was on the floor," he said. There "was a lot of blood coming out of him [Mr. Remsburg]."

Mr. Alston testified he sent "three kids" to get help. But Mr. Remsburg, who owned Jim's Barbershop, died almost immediately.

"He never saw Christmas of 1990, because he was killed. He was murdered in his barbershop," Assistant State's Attorney Vickie Lynn Wash said.

Ms. Wash painted the defendant as a liar who had tried to deceive police. Ms. Wash said Mr. Wheeler originally told police he was a witness to the shooting, then later said he was a lookout.

"Being a lookout means you're just as guilty," Ms. Wash told the jury.

"He thought he had the perfect crime, but he didn't, ladies and gentlemen," she said.

In her opening statement, Mr. Wheeler's lawyer, Marcia Stephenson, said the prosecution did not have enough evidence to convict her client.

"Because he didn't stop it, doesn't make him guilty," Ms. Stephenson told the jury.

Earlier this week, another man was convicted in connection with the barber's death. Freddie Lee Bradshaw, 22, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and robbery and received a life sentence with all but 30 years suspended.

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