Defense portrays fatal shooting


In a courtroom demonstration Friday, the defense sought to disprove the prosecution's contention that an Edgewood man fatally shot his wife and tried to make it look as if she committed suicide.

David Henninger, the attorney for defendant Harry Phillip Gross III, held an unloaded .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver to his own chest and asked a police detective to pull his wrist away, as if trying to prevent him from pulling the trigger.

As Sgt. Edward Hopkins of the Harford County sheriff's office yanked Mr. Henninger's wrist, the trigger of the pistol snapped as if it had fired, and the angle of the weapon came directly into line with the attorney's chest.

The demonstration, the defense attorney said, showed that the shooting of Clara Jean Gross, 43,in the Grosses' bedroom, could have occurred just as his client said it did: Mrs. Gross shooting herself while the two were struggling over the weapon.

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly is seeking life imprisonment for Mr. Gross, 45, alleging that he shot his wife in their Edgewood trailer home March 7, 1993, after confronting her with a private detective's report about her alleged extramarital activities.

The trial, which began Wednesday, will continue tomorrow. Mr. Gross is charged with first-degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.

In opening statements, Mr. Cassilly told the jury of seven men and five women that Mr. Gross was an obsessive, jealous husband who feared losing $50,000 as the beneficiary of his wife's life insurance policy.

Mr. Cassilly used testimony from Dr. Marguerita Korrell, a state -- medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Mrs. Gross, to support his contention that the fatal shot was fired no more than an inch from the victim.

Dr. Korrell also testified that the shot's trajectory was straight.

Mr. Cassilly contended that the trajectory indicated that the fatal shot was fired by someone other than the victim.

Mrs. Gross was pronounced dead at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at 2:28 a.m., about an hour after her husband called sheriff's deputies to report that she had been shot.

Harford sheriff's deputies reported that Mrs. Gross was alive,lying on a bed with a gunshot wound in her chest, when they arrived at the couple's residence in an Edgewood mobile home park.

Kelly Schaeffer, a state witness, testified that Mrs. Gross intended to leave her husband. She said Mrs. Gross worked with her at the Giant Food store in Edgewood as a pharmacist's assistant and wanted to go to school to become a pharmacist.

Elaine Dean, another co-worker, said Mrs. Gross told her that she was "waiting for the estate of her brother-in-law to be settled so she would have money to get out [of the marriage] and get her own place."

Stephen Martin, a former official of Evergreen Security, testified that Mr. Gross had hired the Bel Air private investigation firm to trail Mrs. Gross to obtain proof she was unfaithful.

On March 5, Mr. Gross went to Evergreen's offices seeking a written report of the firm's findings, said Mr. Martin, a former National Security Agency special agent who was director of sales for Evergreen.

Mr. Martin called the status report that he gave Mr. Gross that day "inconclusive." There was no evidence that she had been unfaithful, he said.

Becky David, an official of Credit Union National Association, the Iowa company that wrote Mrs. Gross' life insurance policy, testified that Mrs. Gross had requested a form to change the beneficiary of her policy on Feb. 25, 1993.

She testified that the form was not returned to the company, and that Mr. Gross is the beneficiary.

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