When 16-year-old Chaquista Spriggs was shot dead in December on the railroad tracks that run along Northwest Baltimore's Wabash Avenue, her family figured she must have died in the course of a robbery. After all, her boyfriend was shot, too. Critically wounded, in fact.
Now, 10 months later, the 20-year-old boyfriend is on trial, charged with arranging his sweetheart's murder.
Prosecutors are trying to convince a Baltimore Circuit Court jury that Maurice Osborne wanted Chaquista dead because their relationship of two years had begun to cool. And he was willing to take a bullet to cover up the scheme, prosecutors contend.
"She had found another friend. He wasn't too pleased. He was hanging on her a lot," Keisha Holley, Chaquista's 19-year-old cousin, said yesterday outside the courtroom.
The prosecution's key witness, a close friend of Mr. Osborne's, had to be locked up to ensure his appearance in court.
Once on the witness stand, Sterling Bailey said Maurice Osborne told him of his desire to eliminate Chaquista.
Also, Mr. Bailey said, he heard Mr. Osborne discuss plans to kill bTC the girl with the alleged gunman, Steven Daniel, who also is on trial. He said he saw the men leave a party together the night of the killing.
If the thought that a crumbling first love could be the motive for murder seems unlikely, consider this: The defense in the case is suggesting that Mr. Bailey may have carried out the killing because he was upset with the way Chaquista was treating his friend.
Chaquista was last seen by her family on Dec. 19, as she headed off to her second day of work at a store in Reisterstown Plaza. When the Edmondson/Westside Senior High School student got off work at 10 p.m., she was met by Mr. Osborne.
The two were apparently walking from the shopping center to a Metro stop when they were accosted in the 4200 block of Patterson Ave. Led to the nearby railroad tracks, Chaquista died instantly after being shot in the back of the head. In what prosecutors hope will be seen as a blow to his credibility, Mr. Osborne told police he was facing his attacker when he was shot, but medical experts determined he had been shot in the back.
Chaquista's stepfather, Kevin Walker, took the stand Tuesday to say he had had misgivings about his daughter's relationship with Mr. Osborne. Mr. Walker said Chaquista's plans included joining an Air Force ROTC program and, later, starting a family.
Mr. Osborne, on the other hand, showed little ambition beyond his fast food job, Mr. Walker said.
"Did he have any other plans?" prosecutor Carolyn Starks Saxon asked.
"If he did, he kept them to himself," Mr. Walker answered. "Going nowhere," added the stepfather, swiveling the chair in the witness stand to glare at Mr. Osborne.
Mr. Walker also said that Mr. Osborne slipped away from the hospital to attend Chaquista's viewing and also stopped by the family's home the day after Christmas to deliver a card.
By then, the family had apparently become suspicious.
Mr. Walker said, "My wife asked him point blank, 'Maurice, did you kill my daughter?' He just looked at the floor."
The stepfather's demeanor changed only when he recalled how his family prepared for his daughter's arrival from work the night she was killed.
"We had microwave popcorn and videos, waiting for her to come home," he said, his voice cracking.
But Mr. Walker offered one piece of testimony that could help the defense when he described how Mr. Bailey called around midnight to tell him that Chaquista was dead.
"His mood was very cold," Mr. Walker said. "It was like he was relaying baseball scores or something."