In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors told an Anne Arundel County jury that a Rosedale heroin addict on trial for murder robbed and killed a elderly couple because he wanted money to buy drugs and did not want to leave witnesses.
"Stabbing them didn't matter to him," Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Bailey said shortly before the jury began deliberating. Testimony began Monday in the trial, which was moved out of Baltimore County due to pretrial publicity.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Lawrence Michael Borchardt Sr., 48, accused of two first-degree murders and related charges in the Thanksgiving Day 1998 deaths of Joseph Ohler, 81, and his wife, Bernice, 82. The Rosedale couple was slain in their home in the 6500 block of Golden Ring Road after returning from a Thanksgiving meal.
If Borchardt is convicted of first-degree murder, the death penalty sentence hearings would begin May 22.
Defense lawyer David Henninger argued that Borchardt's girlfriend killed Bernice Ohler, though he said nobody really knows "who killed anyone in that house."
Police say Borchardt and his girlfriend, Jeanne Sue Cascio, 40, both of the 6700 block of Havenoak Road, were panhandling earlier that week in the Ohlers' neighborhood. The couple gave them $60, which they used to buy what turned out to be fake heroin.
The Ohlers were killed the next day, when Borchardt and Cascio returned to their home for more money. There was only $11 in Joseph Ohler's wallet, Bailey said.
Cascio was sentenced to life without parole after she was convicted in Baltimore County of two counts of first-degree murder and armed-robbery charges in the killings.
Borchardt confessed to police two days after his arrest on Nov. 27, 1998, telling them he committed both killings, and prosecutors said most of what he said matched the evidence.
"The confession is so grisly cold about it," Bailey said, later adding "he stabbed these people so hard that he broke his knife."
That confession was the focus of much of yesterday's closing arguments. Defense lawyers attacked it as lacking credibility because a few remarks in it, mostly about Cascio, do not match what police know about the case.
Henninger told jurors that Borchardt admitted to the slayings to deflect police attention from Cascio because he loved her.
Borchardt told police she was not at the Ohlers' two-story brick home, though Bailey said other evidence indicates she was there.
Neighbors and relatives described the victims as a kind and generous couple.
"They were excellent people. I couldn't have had better neighbors," Irv Tarbert recalled outside the Annapolis courtroom. He found Joseph Ohler's body in a flower bed and called police. "He would help anybody."