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Bail denied to suspect in rape-slaying


Alvin Winslow Gross is a regular at church, a Little League coach and a life-long resident of Shady Side, but he was denied bail yesterday after a prosecutor said he may face the death penalty if convicted of the rape and murder of an Annapolis woman last December.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. said the possibility of the death penalty "far outweighs" any ties to the community that would ensure Mr. Gross' appearance for trial.

Mr. Gross, 20, of the 4800 block of Atwell Court is charged with the Dec. 19, 1993, rape and murder of Margaret Courson, 28, of the 100 block of Prince George St. Her partially clothed body was found alongside the 300 block of Leitch Road. She had died of multiple gunshot wounds.

"Is he a danger to others? The court is satisfied that he is," Judge Thieme said.

The ruling came at the end of a brief hearing sought by Mr. Gross' attorney, Peter O'Neill, to allow his client to remain free prior to the trial. No trial date has been set.

The hearing attracted about 100 of Mr. Gross' family, friends and neighbors from Shady Side.

"His life is here, his family is here," Mr. O'Neill said, arguing that his client would show up for trial.

Darnell Easton, who directs the youth ministry at Bethel Way of the Cross Church in Huntington, Calvert County, told the judge that Mr. Gross was a dependable leader of the church's youth.

"I feel very confident that this young man will be obedient to whatever (rules) you have," he said. "I put my trust in him."

Mr. O'Neill claimed to have learned that the prosecution's case rests largely on the word of Sidney Scott, an acquaintance who said he was with Mr. Gross at the time of the murder.

According to charging documents, Mr. Scott told police that Mr. Gross picked him up in Churchton early Dec. 19 and that Ms. Courson was in the back of his truck, apparently drunk.

After he raped her in the truck, Mr. Gross drove to the 300 block of Leitch Road, where he ordered Ms. Courson out of the truck and followed her, the documents say.

Mr. Scott said he heard several gunshots before Mr. Gross got back into the truck and asked Mr. Scott if he thought he had killed Ms. Courson, according to the documents.

But Mr. Scott did not report the incident until two weeks later, Mr. O'Neill noted. "I would suggest to the court that Mr. Scott is extremely suspect," he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris said the evidence includes Mr. Gross' admissions to others of his involvement in the murder, the victim's fingerprint on his truck and DNA samples from the crime scene that still are being tested.

She also said State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee has yet to rule out the death penalty. With that possibility hanging over Mr. Gross, "the risk of flight is enormous," she said. "The community support doesn't help him if he's facing death, or life without parole."

Judge Thieme said he would reconsider the bail request after a decision is reached on the death penalty and after results of the DNA tests are completed.

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