As a kidnapping and murder trial opened in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday, city prosecutors argued that defendant Gregory Kevin Thomas committed a killing "in cold blood," while the defense lawyer said his client had "nothing to do with any murder."
Thomas, 22, is on trial in the robbery and killing of Darryl "Tank" Dennis in Southwest Baltimore in 2001, a crime prosecutors said he committed while wearing a Frankenstein Halloween mask. Thomas is also charged with the attempted murder of Dennis' close friend, Michael Wolfe, who was able to escape.
The case has drawn public attention because Wolfe, who has been in the city's cash-poor witness assistance program for more than a year, has spoken out against the program as being insufficient. He has said witnesses receive temporary housing and occasional transportation but no special protection.
Wolfe, who says he fears for his life, was the subject of an article in The Sun this year, and was also featured on a local television news show.
He has been waiting to testify in the case for almost two years and is likely to take the stand today.
A co-defendant, Theodore Mouzon, faces an October trial. Mouzon was tried in the crimes last year, but the case ended in a hung jury.
Yesterday in opening statements, prosecutor Sharon Holback told a jury that police discovered Thomas' DNA on the Frankenstein mask. That mask, she said, was found in a van driven by Thomas.
She also said Thomas took the murder weapon -- a handgun covered with the victim's blood -- out of the van and discarded it under a truck as police chased him.
"He robbed, kidnapped and killed Darryl Dennis in cold blood," Holback said. "We have his DNA fingerprint on the mask he wore."
Thomas' lawyer, Randolph Gregory, argued that the Frankenstein mask had "cross contamination" of DNA from his client and the victim, and does not prove Thomas guilty.
"This is a circumstantial evidence case," Gregory said.
Wolfe, one of about 140 witnesses each year to receive help from the Baltimore state's attorney's office, went into the witness assistance program in July last year because he said he feared for his life.
Witnesses in the program are eligible for temporary housing, a voucher for permanent public housing, transportation to court proceedings and occasional food vouchers.
Prosecutors said the killing Oct. 16, 2001, occurred when Dennis and Wolfe were standing on a corner of Franklintown Road in Southwest Baltimore and were approached by two men. The men flashed a snub-nosed, stainless steel handgun and robbed Wolfe of his jacket, police said. One pistol-whipped Wolfe before he was able to sprint away, with bullets still flying, Wolfe has said.
The men forced Dennis into a van, and his body was found in the vehicle hours later, five blocks from where he was abducted, police said.