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Trial begins in Baltimore Co. slayings


James Garland Finneyfrock pressed the heels of his hands over his eyes and wept yesterday as a Baltimore County prosecutor showed a jury pictures of his parents' bullet-ridden bodies and denounced him as their killer.

Mr. Finneyfrock, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Wade and Susan Finneyfrock on Nov. 13, 1993, at the family's home in the 2300 block of Poplar Road, in the Cedar Beach area of Essex.

Police suspected the son almost immediately, Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry told the jury as the trial began yesterday.

Assistant Public Defender Jennifer B. Aist told the jury that this suspicion accounted for much of Mr. Finneyfrock's supposedly odd behavior. She also stressed the circumstantial nature of the case.

"You will not hear James Finneyfrock take the stand," she said. "You know the most important thing he has to tell you is he is not guilty. . . . Don't compound this tragedy and convict an innocent man."

Mr. Finneyfrock had just moved back into his parents' house in the rural waterfront community. His 54-year-old father, a Navy retiree, was found shot to death just inside the door, while his mother, 51, lay dead just outside it.

Mr. Gentry said items had been stacked as if by a burglar, but that police discounted that scenario because of Mr. Finneyfrock's acting oddly and giving varying accounts to detectives, relatives and neighbors soon after he reported finding the bodies.

Utility lines to the house had been cut hours before the supposed burglar used the son's .22-caliber hunting rifle to load and fire nine shells at the couple, the prosecutor said.

Homicide detectives also caught the son in an attempt several days later to plant an important piece of evidence -- a missing house key -- at the scene, Mr. Gentry said.

The reason was greed and an obsession with a girlfriend, who was off with another man, the prosecutor said, explaining that he wanted to give her "the good life: money, a house with a white picket fence."

The night of the killings, Mr. Gentry said, an unemotional Mr. Finneyfrock was asking, "Where's all the papers for the estate? How much is in the estate?"

According to the prosecutor, Mr. Finneyfrock moved in December to an apartment on Old Eastern Avenue, where a trucker overheard the new neighbor say one night, "Maybe I shouldn't have found them so soon," and, "Only me and you know I shot them."

Mrs. Aist urged the jury to make the prosecution prove "the dramatic things it promised."

"They give you someone who overhears a conversation between two people he doesn't know -- at night," she said. Noting a yearlong delay between the crime and the arrest, she asked, "If they had all this evidence that night, why wasn't he charged sooner?"

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