Prosecutors opened their case yesterday against Carl Preston Evans Jr., a convicted sex offender charged with killing his 13-year-old stepdaughter last summer and setting his family's Essex rowhouse on fire to cover up the crime.
Michael S. Fuller, a Baltimore County assistant state's attorney, told jurors that police found two knives - one broken, both bloody - as well as a towel and T-shirt in a knapsack left on the front lawn of the Evanses' house the afternoon that firefighters pulled the body of Breaunna Floyd and her conscious baby sister out of the smoky blaze.
DNA analysis indicated that the blood on the knives, towel and Cleveland Indians shirt came from Breaunna, Fuller said.
Three neighbors testified yesterday afternoon in Baltimore County Circuit Court that Evans was carrying that same knapsack when he arrived on Foxridge Lane in Essex on July 25, 2005, to find smoke pouring from his home.
"The defendant stabbed her 24 times," Fuller told jurors. " ... He strangled her. He smashed her head with a fan. And if that wasn't horrifying enough, he poured gasoline all over her butchered body and set her on fire. ... It's time to hold that man accountable for what he did."
But defense attorney Gary D. Schenker asked jurors to consider that this murder case, like every coin, has another side.
He pointed out that Evans' fingerprints were not found on the knives or on the plastic gas can found in the living room of the rowhouse. He mentioned a neighbor who saw an unidentified young man running from the back of Evans' home. And he criticized the failure of detectives to check male DNA found on Breaunna's pillowcase against state or national DNA databases after concluding that the cells did not come from Evans.
Asking why police wouldn't have sought the source of the DNA, Schenker answered his own question: "Because it has to be, it must be, it will always be, to the police, Mr. Evans."
Evans, 36, who fled the scene of the fire, was arrested 11 days later near a relative's house in West Baltimore.
Convicted in 1991 of raping and beating a woman at gunpoint, Evans' arrest in the killing of his stepdaughter highlighted problems with Maryland's sex offender registry program.
Offenders are required to keep their addresses current with the registry but often don't - and different jurisdictions' attempts to keep tabs on the registry's rapists, child molesters and sexually violent predators vary widely.
In the days after Breaunna's death, authorities discovered that Evans had failed for several years to update his address with the registry. Although registered letters sent to Evans by the state were returned unopened, authorities didn't start searching for him until he was charged with his stepdaughter's murder, his baby daughter's attempted murder and arson.
Because prior convictions generally cannot be brought up in court during a defendant's trial, prosecutors made no mention yesterday of Evans' guilty plea in the 1991 rape case.
Neighbors and Evans' wife, Kenya, testified about the man's behavior the day of the fire.
Kenya Evans, a correctional officer at the Baltimore City Detention Center, told jurors that she dropped off her husband of two years at Franklin Square Hospital Center about 6 o'clock that morning for treatment of an eye infection. Photos shown to jurors from surveillance cameras outside and inside the hospital's emergency room depict Carl Evans there that morning in a gray Cleveland Indians T-shirt.
Kenya Evans said her husband called about 9:30 a.m. to get information about their health insurance. She did not hear from him again.
Neighbors testified that shortly after they saw smoke coming from the Evanses' end-of-row, two-story brick house, they spotted Carl Evans walking around the corner toward his home.
Told that his house was on fire, Carl Evans unlocked the front door and twice started up the staircase toward his daughters' second-floor bedrooms before being overcome by smoke, neighbor Shaniena Tompakov told jurors.
She said he made it to the second step of the staircase before he began yelling that his kids were dead.
Neighbors said he ran back out of the house, around the corner to the backyard and then down the alley toward the woods.
He never returned - not to wait for firefighters, not to check on Breaunna or his 7-month-old daughter, Mosett Evans, and not for Breaunna's funeral, witnesses and the prosecutor told jurors.
"In fact, have you spoken with Carl Evans at all since 9:30 that morning?" Fuller, the prosecutor, asked the defendant's wife.
"No," she responded quietly.
The trial is expected to continue through the week. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for Evans.