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Man, 34, pleads guilty in slaying of neighbor


A Columbia man could face a 30-year prison sentence after accepting a plea agreement yesterday in the June 1992 shooting death of a neighbor who owed him $50.

Dwayne Romaine Briggs, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a weapons violation shortly before jury selection for his second trial was to begin in Howard Circuit Court.

Briggs originally was charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 21-year-old Lawrence Rico Evans III at the Beeches Farm apartment complex, where both men lived, on June 9, 1992.

Briggs, a former maintenance worker at the apartment complex in Kings Contrivance, first went to trial in January 1993, but the jury could not reach a verdict.

He testified at the first trial that he acted in self-defense when he fired six shots at Mr. Evans. One of the bullets struck Mr. Evans in the chest, killing him.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage said she will seek a 30-year prison sentence for Briggs.

Judge Dennis M. Sweeney is to sentence Briggs May 3.

Briggs, of the 7200 block of Eden Brook Drive, could have been sentenced to life in prison if he had been convicted of first-degree murder.

During yesterday's hearing, Ms. Gage read a report that detailed the shooting:

Police officers arrived at Beeches Farm about 10:15 p.m. and found Mr. Evans lying on the ground outside his girlfriend's apartment with a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest.

The girlfriend's 15-year-old sister looked out her window when she heard the gunshots and saw Briggs running away from the scene of the shooting.

Investigators found a .25-caliber bullet in Briggs' pants pocket that matched the one recovered from Mr. Evans' body. A friend of Briggs told police that he saw a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun in Briggs' car several hours before the shooting.

A relative of Mr. Evans told investigators that the victim had reported about a month before the shooting that he owed Briggs $50 and that Briggs was demanding repayment.

Briggs testified at his first trial that he and Mr. Evans had been friends for about three years but that their relationship became strained after Mr. Evans failed to repay the money.

On the night of the shooting, Briggs testified, he got a gun from his vehicle when he took his dog for a walk. While on the walk, he said, he saw Mr. Evans and the two started a conversation.

Briggs said his dog jerked at its leash, causing him to drop the handgun. As he picked up the gun, he said, he saw Mr. Evans coming toward him. He said he was afraid of Mr. Evans and that he pulled the trigger, unaware that the gun was aimed at Mr. Evans.

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