Argument over flat tire leads to death of teen


An argument over who let the air out of a teen-ager's bicycle tire has left one Millersville youth dead and another charged with first-degree murder.

Charles H. Cross, 16, of the 8300 block of Oakwood Road, died at Maryland Shock Trauma Center at 11:40 p.m., less than four hours after being stabbed after an argument in front of a home in the 200 block Poplar Road in Elvaton Acres. Charged as an adult was Steven Calvin Barrett Jr., also 16, of the 8300 block of Brookwood Road.

Yesterday afternoon, in Annapolis District court, a woman identifying herself as young Barrett's mother but declining to speak with reporters after the hearing, urged Judge Clayton Greene to release the youth on bail.

"I guarantee that he will not leave," she told the judge. "He came home to me after this happened. He cried to me. If he could give his life for Chuckie's, he would."

But Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Pryal, citing the "trivial nature" of the dispute and the boy's "violent nature," argued the youth was a threat to the community.

The Barrett boy was ordered held without bail in the county Detention Center.

Investigators said he, his sister Jenny, and his girlfriend, Wendy Rice, were in the Rice home in the 200 block of Poplar Road about 7:50 p.m. when Wendy went outside to talk to young Cross.

The teen-aged boy "complained to her that someone let the air out of his bike tires," Capt. Michael Fitzgibbons, commander of the county police Criminal Investigations Division, said in recounting events leading to the assault. "A shouting match broke out and Mr. Barrett sees it from inside the house and goes out to intervene."

The two boys began arguing, then a fist began and the two fell to the ground, he said. The Cross youth was stabbed during the fight, Captain Fitzgibbons said.

Jeff Shelby, 11, who lives in the 200 block of Popular Road, said he was on the phone when he heard screaming outside.

"I saw Chuckie and Stevie fighting on the ground," he said. A third boy, John Chadwick, was trying to break it up."

XTC Justin Rizzutto, 17, of the 200 block of Popular Drive, was playing pool in his family room when John Chadwick ran into the room in a panic and told him what had happened.

"I took off out of the house and down the street," Justin said, and saw the Cross youth lying in the middle of the street. "Wendy Rice was pacing around back and forth, and Jenny Barrett was just staring at him with her hand over her mouth," he said.

A nurse who lives in the neighborhood tilted the boy's head, urged him to hang on while waiting for the ambulance.

Justin said his friend was conscious saying, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die. I can't breathe."

Friends and family gathered in the kitchen of the Cross home yesterday as the boy's mother, Delores Cross, tried to reach her husband, John, who is in Africa on business.

At 11:30 a.m., she reached him by phone and, sobbing, told him of their son's death.

"That kid knew he was dying," she told her husband. "They [doctors] came out every hour to tell me how things were going, and just when I thought it was going to be all right, they came out and told me he was dead. The loss of blood was too much of a shock to his system."

Mrs. Cross said she was out with friends when the word of the stabbing got around the small community off Jumper's Hole Road.

"My daughter called me and told me," she said. "I was hoping it was some sort of a sick joke. I went straight to the scene, but they had already taken him to the hospital."

During yesterday's bail review hearing, young Barrett looked down at his lap and spoke in a quiet voice as he told the judge via video camera that he had dropped out of school in ninth grade because he "wasn't doing too good."

He attended the Phoenix School, a special education school for students not doing well in a regular classroom environment, for three or four years.

Despite his family and school problems, his mother pleaded to the judge, "he's not a bad boy."

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