Marta Bradley and Alan Bruce Chmurny had been work friends for nearly two years - lunching together, shopping for a dog - when he placed a mock performance evaluation in her mailbox at Oceanix Biosciences Corp. in Hanover.
Among the comments that concerned her most in the February 1997 document, Chmurny had written, "Caught her friend's life with a caring heart when everything he had found was taken away in an instant. To this day she has not let it fall and break," Bradley said yesterday during the first day of testimony in Chmurny's trial on charges of assault, reckless endangerment and malicious destruction.
"I felt like it was saying he couldn't live without me," she said. A few months later, she arrived at her North Laurel home to find jewelry and lingerie missing from her house, she testified; Chmurny would later return the items in an envelope - and tell her they had been placed in his mailbox, she said.
The fake evaluation and missing items would become part of a pattern of incidents involving Chmurny - incidents that peaked when the Frederick chemist allegedly placed deadly mercury in the air ducts of Bradley's Ford Taurus station wagon in mid-April 2000, Assistant State's Attorney Jim Dietrich said during opening statements yesterday.
"Up to that point, her safety had never been attacked," the prosecutor said during his 15-minute remarks to jurors in Howard County Circuit Court.
After Bradley, 33, discovered the toxic metallic element on the seats and floor and in the vents of her car in front of her North Laurel home April 16, 2000, videotapes set up to catch the perpetrator captured the image of Chmurny "skulking around" the Bradley car, which had been totaled, Dietrich told jurors. A search of Chmurny's car turned up a bottle of mercury and a search of his Frederick home turned up keys to the station wagon, a map to the Bradleys' Jeanne Court house and other items, he said.
In all, Chmurny, 57, was "a man, completely and wholly obsessed with Marta Bradley," Dietrich said.
Defense attorney Dino Flores said that after jurors hear the case - including evidence of what he called a "bad police investigation" - they will determine that "Alan Chmurny is not the person that poured mercury in that vehicle."
He hinted at defense strategy, noting that police and prosecutors relied almost exclusively on "Marta Bradley's word" and saying that the problems between Bradley and Chmurny resulted from her behavior - not his.
As for the videotapes, he said, it's difficult to discern whether the person seen by the car on four different occasions is black or white: "I give you it's human," he said. "The person has arms and legs and walks upright."
And, Flores noted, the person gets into the car - despite the fact that mercury "can be dangerous."
The videotapes, five of which were played for jurors yesterday, show the image of a person wearing a tan jacket walking up to the car, walking by the car, walking away with the Bradleys' trash bags and, at one point, sitting in the car for a minute and a half.
Still, Bradley and her husband, Scot, testified yesterday that the person they saw in the videotapes from the early morning hours May 26, 29, 30 and 31, 2000 - taken with one camera they set up and another placed by Howard County police - was Chmurny.
Scot Bradley testified that he set up his camera to record overnight images around the car and that, initially, he reviewed the tapes at least every other day. After a while, he said, he placed paper clips in the doors so he would know if anyone had tampered with the car.
On cross-examination, he said someone else had been seen walking by the car on about five occasions, but he taped over the images without telling the lead detective.
Flores also noted during Marta Bradley's testimony that she did not give Chmurny back the diamond earrings he had once gave her as a present - she said he told her he might be dying of cancer and considered her a daughter-figure - even after the chemist made her uncomfortable.
Also yesterday, Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. denied a defense motion seeking to bar evidence, including a vial of mercury, that Howard County police found in Chmurny's car after his June 2000 arrest.
Testimony is to resume today.