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Carter guilty in murder of Catonsville man Teen convicted on all 9 counts

Dontay Carter, the East Baltimore teen-ager charged in a kidnapping spree that struck a nerve in a city plagued by violence, was convicted yesterday of snatching a man from a downtown parking garage and beating him to death in a burned-out rowhouse.

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury deliberated for 9 1/2 hours over two days before finding Carter guilty on all nine counts in the slaying of Vitalis V. Pilius, a 37-year-old father of four young children from Catonsville.

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Carter, who denied the charges, stood with his hands in his pockets while the jury forewoman pronounced him guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, conspiracy and weapons violations. He showed no emotion.

As the verdicts were read before the packed courtroom, Mr. Pilius' widow bit her lip in an unsuccessful effort to hold back her tears. Later, Aldona Pilius said, "It's hard -- still . . . I just want to go home and celebrate the twins' fourth birthday.

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"One of them, last night, said, 'I forgot to tell my Daddy something. I forgot to tell him I love him,' " Mrs. Pilius added. "I said, 'No, you have told him that and he knows that.' "

Carter, who took the witness stand last week to claim police framed him for a killing carried out by two of his friends, declined to comment after the verdict. His lawyer, John S. Deros, said: "His frame of mind is excellent. He maintains that he did not kill Mr. Pilius.

"He feels he was railroaded by the system and he looks forward to his appeal," Mr. Deros said. "He is not crushed. He is not broken."

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life in prison with no chance for parole. No sentencing date was set.

The verdict was the first stemming from a February crime spree that, with its racial overtones and images of sloppy police work, captivated the Baltimore media and played a part in a state police superintendent losing his job.

Carter, who is black, was named by authorities as the leader behind a scheme to kidnap well-dressed white men from city parking garages. Shake-ups were ordered in the state police and the Motor Vehicle Administration after information surfaced that Carter had twice slipped through the hands of police after Mr. Pilius' death and had obtained a driver's license in the dead man's name.

Testifying in the trial, Carter, 19, showed flashes of the quick mind and aggressive personality that had allowed him to talk his way out of troubles with police. He described how he turned the tables on a state trooper during a traffic stop a day after Mr. Pilius disappeared, boasting that he talked to a lieutenant "like I was the police and he was the suspect."

Likewise, he tried to turn the tables in the trial, taking the stand to accuse Baltimore homicide detectives with fabricating a confession to frame him and cover up a botched investigation into the Pilius slaying.

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The jurors received the case about 1 p.m. Monday and deliberated for about five hours before presiding Judge John N. Prevas sent them home for the night. They returned yesterday morning at 9:30, and within 45 minutes had sent down a note asking for clarifications on the weapons charges Carter faced.

Just before 1 p.m., they sent down another note asking for a dictionary; they were looking for the definitions for "wear," apparently a reference to the charge of carrying or wearing the 20-pound steel pole believed to be the murder weapon. After consulting with case law and lawyers for the prosecution and defense, presiding Judge Prevas sent the jury a photocopied definition of the word.

At 2:08 p.m., the jury of nine black women, two black men and one white man sent word that it had reached a verdict.

After hearing the verdict, a woman who identified herself as Carter's sister sat in the back of the courtroom, tears running down her face.

Jurors, met by a hoard of television cameras and reporters as they filed out of the courthouse, said the trial and the deliberations were exhausting.

"I'm glad it's over," said one of the male jurors, who refused to give his name. When asked of his impression of Carter, he said, "He did the crime, he got the punishment."

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One of the female jurors said she "felt sorry" for Carter, but added the evidence showing his guilt was very convincing.

Carter, who was released from prison Jan. 29 after serving 2 1/2 years on a theft sentence, is yet to be tried for the Feb. 7 kidnapping of a Johns Hopkins Hospital doctor from the hospital parking garage. In that incident, Dr. Daniel Ford was choked so severely he bled from his eyes and was left for dead in his car trunk at Mondawmin Mall.

Carter is also to be tried in the Feb. 14 kidnapping of jeweler Douglas R. Legenhausen, the abduction that led to Carter's arrest. Clarence Woodward is to be tried separately in the Pilius slaying, and two other teen-agers, Damien "Day Day" Daniels and Dwayne A. Reid, are to be tried in the Ford abduction.

All of the trials are scheduled for Thursday; Vickie L. Wash, the prosecutor, will select which case to call and the other trials will be postponed.

Mr. Deros, the assistant public defender representing Carter, said he would argue for a new trial at a Dec. 17 hearing. One ground for a new trial, he said, is word that two jurors said they were exposed to some media coverage of the case.

Mr. Deros predicted the conviction would not withstand a review by appellate courts. One obvious appeal issue, he said, would center on a decision to allow the jury to hear testimony of the Legenhausen kidnapping.

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Judge Prevas said he would not sentence Carter until after all of his trials. At least one member of the Pilius family questioned yesterday why prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for Carter.

Stuart O. Simms, city state's attorney, said his office did not pursue the death penalty because he determined a jury would find the mitigating factors -- such as Carter's age and lack of a "broad" juvenile record -- to outweigh aggravating factors.

"You've got to be realistic about what you're asking for," he said. "If you are trying a 19-year-old and the penalty you are seeking is death, you can be working against yourself and the case could become a referendum on the death penalty and not a question of guilt or innocence."

Moments before Mr. Simms met with reporters on the steps outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, Mrs. Pilius likened the stress of the deliberations to the disappearance of a husband who never came home.

"Waiting last night was just like waiting for him to come home again," she said. "Now we've got to move on. We'll do it."


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