Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Witness accuses defendant


The mother of a woman slain two years ago in a Severn townhouse glared across a Howard County courtroom yesterday at the man accused of the killing and told him she knows he is guilty.

Nina Gentry, who discovered the bodies of her daughter and a friend after noon Dec. 30, 1993, testified that she called police, then left the house in the 1900 block of Bastille Court.

"I walked out of my house because I knew my baby was dead, and Darris, you did it," Mrs. Gentry said.

Darris Ware, a 24-year-old former Navy seaman, stared back from a trial table about 20 feet away.

Mr. Ware is charged with killing Betina "Kristi" Gentry, 18, his one-time fiance, and Cynthia Vega Allen, 22. Their bodies were found in separate rooms of Mrs. Gentry's house, each shot in the head and chest. He could receive the death penalty is convicted.

The trial was moved to Howard County Circuit Court after Mr. Ware's lawyers, Mark Blumberg and Robert Waldman, said publicity surrounding the case made it impossible for their client to get a fair trial in Anne Arundel County.

In opening statements yesterday, Deputy State's Attorney Gerald K. Anders said Mr. Ware shot the victims after a fight in which he hit Miss Gentry, injuring her eye.

After the fight, Miss Gentry called her brother, Kevin Gentry, 32, who came to the home and confronted Mr. Ware but was chased off by Mr. Ware, who got a a handgun from his vehicle, Mr. Anders said.

Mr. Ware returned to the house after the confrontation and shot Mrs. Allen in the doorway of a first-floor bathroom and Miss Gentry in a hallway near her bedroom, Mr. Anders said. Both victims had been shot point-blank in the temple and chest.

Mr. Anders said Mr. Ware admitted owning the same type of .380-caliber, semiautomatic handgun used in the slaying, firing it at a gathering the night before the killings and striking Miss Gentry the morning of the shootings.

Mrs. Gentry told jurors that she let Mr. Ware sleep on their couch for about a month after he got out of the Navy in August 1993. But she said she told him to leave her house after she surmised that he was not searching for a job or a place to live.

Her daughter was working part time for a chiropractor and studying physical therapy at Catonsville Community College, she said.

Such ambitions rattled Mr. Ware, who became an increasingly possessive fiance, Mrs. Gentry testified.

"I told her, I said, 'You are going on with your life and his has taken a downside, and he is not happy with that,' " Mrs. Gentry recalled telling her daughter.

Their differences lead to frequent fights, and when she found the bodies, she reached an immediate conclusion, she said. "The police came, and they started asking me questions, and I just said, 'Darris did it,' " Mrs. Gentry told the jury.

It was her conclusion that led police to fix on a suspect "within 12 minutes" of finding the bodies and to close off any further investigation without even dusting the scene for fingerprints, Mr. Blumberg said in his opening statement.

Mr. Blumberg told jurors that prosecutors had no witnesses, no scientific evidence to confirm that Mr. Ware's gun was the murder weapon and no confession.

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