It was growing dark that Tuesday evening in the winter of 1996 when conversation over a few shots of Southern Comfort and lines of cocaine turned to talk of a dead body.
"Tiny," a bear of a man, told his friend a secret: There was a woman's body out in the woods, and he wanted help moving it. His buddy, "Clint," thought it was a joke -- until Tiny walked him into the woods and brushed aside a pile of trash, tires and bags to reveal the decaying, naked body of a young woman.
So went the testimony yesterday of William Clinton Ashbrook Jr. in the murder trial of Joseph R. "Tiny" Metheny.
FTC "He said this girl owed him $300 so he killed her," Ashbrook said, not 10 feet from the shackled Metheny, whose face bore tattoos of teardrops and a cross between his eyes.
Metheny is accused of killing 23-year-old Kimberly Spicer, whose stabbed body was found Dec. 15, 1996, under a trailer at the Joe Stein & Sons pallet factory in Southwest Baltimore, where Metheny lived and worked as a $7-an-hour forklift driver.
Three days after Spicer's body was found, Metheny led police to a shallow grave on the property that held the decapitated remains of Cathy Ann Magaziner, 39. Metheny faces a separate trial in that slaying.
Metheny, 43, who claims to have killed up to 10 people, was earlier acquitted of bludgeoning two homeless men to death.
Earlier this year, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison after his conviction on charges of kidnapping, assault and threatening to rape a woman.
The Spicer trial in Baltimore Circuit Court marks the first time Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has sought the death penalty since she took office three years ago.
Yesterday, prosecutor Emmanuel Brown built his case on the testimony of Ashbrook, 27, a thrice-convicted thief, admitted drug user and the defendant's former co-worker.
Ashbrook said that after Metheny showed him the body that night, he stood there, afraid, almost unable to look, while Metheny wrapped the corpse in a red tarp. Metheny wanted to hide the body in a Dumpster, but Ashbrook said he begged off, saying he would help some other time.
"I wouldn't want to handle a dead body," the witness told the court.
Ashbrook said he rushed off on his bicycle but returned to Metheny's home less than an hour later with more cocaine. He found Metheny, sweaty, out of breath and in a panic that his friend had told police what he'd seen. Ashbrook hadn't. Metheny had moved the body himself, Ashbrook said.
The two men snorted more cocaine, drank beer and fell asleep in Metheny's makeshift home on the factory property, the witness said.
The next day, Ashbrook said, Metheny acted as if nothing had happened.
Ashbrook, however, told his bosses, Joe Stein Sr. and Joe Stein Jr., about the body.
A day later, Ashbrook testified, he went to the FBI and agreed to wear a body wire in the hope of getting Metheny to tell him what he had done with the body.
In a grainy tape of that conversation played in court yesterday, Ashbrook tried to coax information out of Metheny. But Metheny was circumspect, telling Ashbrook, "Your best bet is to forget anything you saw."
The next day, Ashbrook testified. the younger Stein found the tarp beneath a trailer, and Ashbrook identified the body as the one he had seen earlier.
Pub Date: 5/02/98