DENTON -- The fifth and final defense witness in the murder trial of Michael Whittlesey said yesterday that she saw four youths carry a "very stiff" Jamie Griffin across a road near Gunpowder Falls State Park on April 2, 1982 -- the day the 17-year-old Dulaney County High School senior disappeared.
But in a tough counterattack that marked the high energy level of the trial's final days, prosecutors yesterday challenged the credibility of witness Frances V. Crue with blunt questions about her mental health. Two rebuttal witnesses said flatly that her statements could not be trusted.
Although it would seem to put Whittlesey in a potentially troubling context with Jamie on the last day the youth was seen alive, Mrs. Crue's testimony was an apparent attempt by public defenders to cast doubt on the circumstances in which police and prosecutors say Jamie died.
Prosectors contend that Whittlesey was alone with Jamie in a wooded area of the park when he killed and then buried his longtime school friend in a shallow grave and drove his car to Atlantic City, N.J.
Whittlesey, now 29, was convicted of robbery and theft in 1984 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence. He was charged with Jamie's murder in 1990 after police discovered the youth's remains in the park. No one else was ever charged in connection with Jamie's death.
Mrs. Crue said she was driving to her home in Aberdeen during the afternoon of April 2, 1982, when she was forced to brake her car on Route 7 because another vehicle was stopped in the lane ahead of her.
She said she saw four youths -- including Whittlesey and family acquaintance Nathan A. Boliek -- carrying a short, red-haired teen-ager who was either unconscious or dead across the road.
Jamie was 5 feet 3 inches tall and had red hair and a slight build.
Mrs. Crue told Baltimore County Assistant Public Defender Jerri Peyton that Whittlesey approached her car and "told me their friend had too much to drink and they were taking him over to sober him up." Mrs. Crue said she knew Whittlesey and Mr. Boliek but not the two others, and she said she did not realize that the person the four were carrying was Jamie Griffin until she later saw his picture on search posters.
Mrs. Crue said that family members told her that the Rev. Partee Boliek, now a retired pastor, drove to Atlantic City on April 3, 1982, in order to bring his son, Nathan, and Whittlesey back to Maryland.
Under cross-examination from prosecutor Angela White, Mrs. Crue disclosed that she had been hospitalized for psychiatric problems in the past and had been prescribed mood-altering drugs. She said she suffered from "post-shock syndrome" in 1990 and sees a psychiatrist periodically.
Nathan Boliek, a rebuttal witness for the prosecution, said he had attended high school with Whittlesey but the two were only acquaintances. He said he was not with Whittlesey on April 2, 1982.
The Rev. Partee Boliek said he never traveled to New Jersey in 1982. "I don't believe she tells the truth," he said of Mrs. Crue.