Prosecution rests case in murder trial; Testimony designed to show sex offense committed on slain girl; 'Aggravating' circumstance; Miller cellmate says defendant told him of assault, robbery


CUMBERLAND -- Prosecutors rested their case yesterday in the trial of John A. Miller IV after presenting testimony designed to show that Miller committed a sex offense against a Carroll County girl before killing her.

A man who said he was a former cellmate of Miller's at the Baltimore County Detention Center testified that Miller said he sexually assaulted the girl.

"He tried to seduce her, she said no, and he threw her on the bed, smacked her and sexually assaulted her," said Clarence Bobbitt, recounting what he said was Miller's description of the events leading to the death of Shen Poehlman, 17, of Eldersburg. "He said, 'I killed that girl.' "

Also yesterday, a police detective said he heard Miller, in a telephone call after his arrest, say that the girl had refused to wear sexual "restraints." In a written statement to police, Miller said the girl had agreed to wear the restraints, which were kept in his apartment, and that she allowed him to perform a sex act on her.

Yesterday's testimony could be important because prosecutors, to obtain the death penalty, must show an "aggravating" circumstance, such as a sexual assault or robbery.

Bobbitt, who is serving a prison term for illegally selling handguns, said Miller also told him he had taken money from the girl's purse.

Miller, 27, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted rape, first-degree sex offense, robbery and false imprisonment in Poehlman's death in July 1998. Miller lured the girl to his Reisterstown apartment with the prospect of a baby-sitting job, according to testimony.

Miller's lawyers have told jurors that the unemployed store clerk killed the girl, but they are disputing the sexual assault and robbery charges.

Jerri A. Peyton-Braden, an assistant public defender representing Miller, would not say whether her client will testify.

The defense is expected to call at least one other witness before testimony concludes today.

The Allegany County Circuit Court jury could begin deliberating after closing arguments today. The trial was moved to Cumberland after the case received extensive media coverage in Baltimore County.

If Miller is convicted, a sentencing hearing could begin Monday.

Jerome M. Levine, another lawyer representing Miller, tried yesterday to discredit Bobbitt's testimony.

Levine suggested that Bobbitt might have omitted from his written statement to police that Miller claimed to have "accidentally" killed the girl during sex.

"You just wrote down what you wanted to?" he asked Bobbitt, who answered, "Yeah."

Paul Douglas, then a county police detective, testified that he heard Miller, after being arrested, talk on the telephone to a person named "Isabella" -- presumably his girlfriend at the time, Isabella Sherman. Douglas, now retired, testified that Miller said he told Poehlman he sometimes used the restraints on his children and tried to put the device on her "but she didn't want to put it on."

Another detective, Phillip Marll, said he heard Miller say during a phone call, "After I hurt her, I couldn't let her go."

Prosecutors wrapped up their case by calling Dr. Theodore M. King Jr., an assistant medical examiner. King said the girl was strangled, and wounds on her neck matched the pattern of a herringbone belt recovered from Miller.

Miller told police that the girl was alive when he abandoned her in her car, where her body was found face down. King testified that blood had settled in her body in a way that showed she had been lying on her back for several hours after she died.

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